Here's a random mix of thoughts. Generally I type as I think so I hope this doesn't appear as a word salad. I am assuming the manned and unmanned
aircrafts will be developed at the same time and will be designed to integrated together. This isn't official but it is mentioned in the articles the
creator of this thread linked.
Avionics & Sensors:
European MIC has been working on relatively advanced avionics for some time now. Leonardo (Italian) offers AESA radar with GaN T/R modules which are
more advanced than GaAs. Rafale also has highly integrated avionics including an AESA, apparently sensor fusion, a system that is somewhat similar to
the F-35's DAS (albeit it uses two cameras instead of six, and isn't as highly integrated into of the aircraft, it's used for missile launch
detection), and an integrated electronic warfare system.
I don't think anything European comes close to the F-35's HMD (which Elbit manufactures). I wonder if they would attempt to develop their own or
simply buy the technology from Elbit (Israeli)? Existing helmets used in Rafale and Eurofighter might be able to be a stepping stone. I would also
think that recent advances in VR would help here.
A new datalink system similar to MADL or IFDL would probably be required well to communicate in a stealthy manner, especially to UCAV's. Have they
Eurojet EJ200 and Snecma M88 are fairly high performance and both have growth potential. Of course, M88 is possibly too French for the partnership and
the EJ200 has substantial British and Italian portions. Even if the existing engines were suitable, I wonder if they would still go for a new engine
just to exclude non-participants. I think variable cycle engines are very unlikely, to my knowledge only the US is heavily investing in R&D for
Europe has never fielded an operational stealth aircraft, to my knowledge they have only build prototypes or demonstrator aircraft that are
substantially simpler than an actual 5th generation fighter. For example, integrating sensors into a stealth aircraft requires special care. Even
external hard points would require special care. Every single hatch, every single seal requires special care. And this must be supportable and cost
effective for decades
. I think this is the weak point and the demands on stealth are only going to increase as radar systems get better and
better. Thus, perhaps the multirole manned aircraft will be significantly less stealthy than the much simpler UCAV.
Much talk has been had about the F-35 making 4th generation more lethal which makes the F-35 more lethal (a high-low mix), perhaps the manned aircraft
will be the high and the more stealthy unmanned aircraft with some sort of AI will be the low in this case. This is something that nobody publicly has
demonstrated. I really think that simply trying to create a European alternative to the F-35 is an extremely poor idea - you cannot out US the US,
Europe probably will be behind on variable cycle engines, and avionics. I think a large part of NOT doing this is making the unmanned - manned
integration a focal point, as well as avoiding the compromises in the F-35. In terms of military capability, Germany and France can somewhat rely on
nations that have acquired the F-35 anyway, after all they are part of NATO.
To illustrate this point, you can see this with Boeing and Airbus. The A350 is larger than the 787 but smaller than the 777. Thus, the short A350 will
provide greater payload and range than the stretched versions of the 787 but at higher cost. And the stretched A350 will provide the same passenger
capacity of the 777 but at lower cost, but with less payload and range. Everyone wins.
Further, I would also argue that by creating direct competition to the F-35, they would be effect hurting their own national security, unless they are
actively trying to reduce US influence in the region. Then again, the US has in some ways been a simultaneous threat and friend to the region, so you
never know, it depends on what the goals are of this project, stated or unstated, which, as always, will drive the technical aspect.
The hard part about fighter development is that many, often immature, systems have to be integrated together, for multiple services with often with
wildly different needs. In the case of the F-35 this caused a huge amount of delays and if the program takes too long, then by the end of it the
initial estimates on schedule and cost will be wildly wrong or the world may have changed completely (see Zumwalt class). Another example is the
expanded pilot ejection envelope in the F-35, while simultaneously implementing a new HMD. Luckily I think Europe could potentially leverage a lot of
existing technology to lower technical risk and develop something quickly. A MADL equivalent and new HMD can be developed, these are merely speed
bumps. Stealth is an unknown. I think that if the pitfalls of, in particular, F-35 development, are avoided, an operationally relevant 5th generation
aircraft could be developed somewhat quickly.
My point: There exists an opportunity. Of course, they could screw it all up with all the problems with international collaboration or by inadequate
I also hope they don't build partially capable aircraft, then park them when slightly more advanced variants are produced, with an inability to simply
upgrade the older aircraft because they are only building the aircraft to sustain there industry. I might be wrong, but I think this was the case for
It's also possible that, since manned fighter aircraft are so expensive and difficult, this collaboration could result only in the UCAV component,
with a common datalink to each country's existing fighters, which results in a similar but less capable mix.
Again, depends on what the goals are
of the program and how much money they want to spend.
edit on 14/7/17 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)