1 augustus 2007

Time for a new European Defense Program

A call for a European 5th generation combat aircraft program,
not for a European Union program

In the 6th issue of Technologie & Armement one could read an interesting article written by Jean-Louis Promé entitled:"Neuron en phase de définition. Dassault veut préparer un successeur Européen à son Rafale" (with alongside an English translation: "The Definition phase of the Neuron has just started. Dassault wishes to prepare a successor for its Rafale").

The most important element of the article is situated in the first page (p.62) wherein he clearly indicates that by 2020 there will be a need for a new generation combat aircraft to replace the Mirage 2000, the Tornado, the AMX and the F/A-18 in European air force inventories. Our Belgian AF F-16MLU's are good untill 2015-2020.

He calls for a European 5th Generation Combat aircraft project...to counter the US Joint Strike Fighter which has hit some political turbulence in Europe. The European JSF will be inferior to the Pentagon (US) Joint Strike Fighter, restricted technology transfers diminish the capacity of European partners to fully maintain the JSF themselves (or implement own changes to the aircraft). European partners should get equally capable F-35's and have full control over the aircraft, or can we simply not be trusted with such technology? If so, why would I trust you (USA) then?

I just have to quote the following element out of the text:

"If we are to avoid seeing Washington repeating in due time what can legitimately be dubbed as "the hold-up" it performed over the past few years with its F-35, offering as it did a partnership placing partners on a very unequal footing, Europeans have got to get along well with each other very quickly; operational staff will have to define their needs accurately, industrialists ought to try and set up a common organization in order to meet those specifications; and politicians had better unite, to exert due pressures for the project to reach completion."

I believe that Promé is correct, it is time for a European 5th generation stealth multirole combat aircraft. One that competes with the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 and has a UCAV brother.

European countries should bring their defense staffs together and start defining the requirements of a next generation combat aircraft to be readied by 2020 for production. Launch a joint request for proposals, let the European defense industry and its partners come up with proposals, let them compete against each other and out of it select a winner. Just like the JSF program. That seems to be the sole difference between me and Promé, he opts for co-operation while I choose for competition.

In the article Promé points to the Neuron UCAV as a experimental platform to further develop stealth capacity and other technological advances, Dassault has an advantage he says. The latter probably gives a clue why co-operation is favored. Others in Europe have been working on UCAV's as well, so the advantage is not totally in favor of Dassault.

I would opt for a program seeking to develop 3 different platforms:
a unmanned combat air vehicle,
a single engine multirole manned combat aircraft (as F-35),
a twin engined multirole manned combat aircraft (as F-22 but in a multirole version).

If feasable there should be an as maximum possible degree of commonality between platforms, unless it would not offer significant benefits in production and operating costs. An AESA radar will obviously have become the norm, I would also opt for an integrated IRST. Co-operationg with Japan would be interesting if feasable...the program should accept foreign industrial co-operation as well.

These 5th generation aircraft are not to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Dassault Rafale, nor the Saab Gripen NG. They should form the first wave of aircraft in any air war to take out high value targets, to weaken the air defense and gain air superiority in order to unleash the 4.5 generation aircraft.

Original article was updated on my homeblog.



At 1/8/07 23:00, Blogger Marc Vanfraechem said...

Europe indeed should have a purely European strike capability, and be willing to pay the price for it. If I understood you well, ignorant as I am about weaponry, you said just that, and I then agree.

At 2/8/07 11:45, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

What I was attempting to state is that Europe should launch a new program (just as with the Eurofighter program) to create a new generation of (stealth) combat aircraft (in 3 classes) giving European nations a purely European first strike capability. A technologically advanced aircraft with all of its aspects fully under European control (not restricted by US regulations such as ITAR).

Additionally I would use the program to enter the Israeli and Japanese defense market.

At 4/8/07 03:33, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Can you really blame the US for not wanting to share all its technology with what is at best a lacklustre ally? For not wanting to share its technology with a continent that might become Islamisized and actively hostile to the US in a few decades?

I don't blame them, it is common sense imo.

At 6/8/07 02:20, Blogger David Vandenberghe said...

Then why would the US bother selling the aircraft to us in the first place?! Sure to profit and let their industry cash in on maintenance & sustainement of the European fleets...subscription pays off. (Having a Tony Soprano moment).

The JSF is a project in which several European countries invested in the R&D and SDD phases of the program. The United Kingdom for instance is a TIER I investor, closest ally of the USA and it doesn't get the promised (Clinton) ITAR Waiver. The US is blocking technology transfer that is required to independently maintain and upgrade/sustain these aircraft.

In fact it should be normal that as an investor you should get some amount of technology transfer based on the level of investment (TIER I, II,III). But hey, look at TIER I investor UK...they're getting screwed.

You may want to stay in the shadow of the US. Maybe you want to stay the US's pet, but playing time is over. It's fcking time we stand on our own 2 feet. See, having another Tony Soprano moment.

If the US doesn't consider European countries as sufficiently trustworthy then why should I trust them? If we don't do this 'leap of faith' then we may as well simply give them a monopoly in the Western world and shut down our industry.


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