European sky sovereignty

It is the largest European strategic defence programme: The Future Combat Air System, FCAS for short. This is much more than merely the combat aircraft of tomorrow. It stands for cooperation between the aircraft and other mission participants – and for cooperation between nations and international partners.

The days of individual superpilots like “The Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen, who single-handedly decided aerial combats are long gone. Air superiority over today´s and tomorrow’s complex missions will be won by tactically networked manned and unmanned aerial vehicles linked with other units on the ground and at sea.

FCAS is at the heart of this vision. The participating countries are seeking to jointly develop a system that will far surpass the capabilities of any known combat aircraft and guarantee Europe’s defensive capabilities.

Political and technological cooperation

FCAS is currently the largest European defence program and none of the participating nations either can or is willing to carry out a programme of this magnitude and importance alone. Currently, the first stages are conducted by EU member states Germany, France and Spain, but could also be of interest to other countries in future.

As FCAS is supposed to be more than just a single fighter, but rather a system of various manned and unmanned aircraft acting together, many partners from industry and research organisations have to be coordinated.

The FCMS consortium

On the German side, the FCMS consortium (Future Combat Mission System) holds national responsibility for the the so-called sensor pillar, in which sensor technologies and architectures for an integrated, distributed and networked system of sensors and electronic attack elements will be developed. In this industrial partnership under the lead of HENSOLDT, the companies Diehl Defence, ESG, and Rohde & Schwarz are jointly developing with HENSOLDT the flexible and networked sensors and effectors for the Future Combat Air System.

Bundling essential core competencies of national key technologies under one roof, FCMS offers a broad and technologically sound know-how for the FCAS program and thus ensures the German contribution and the future viability in the field of the 6th Generation Mission Systems.

HENSOLDT contribution

In the FCMS set-up, HENSOLDT stands out with its extensive experience in sensor technology for combat aircraft. Whether radar and signal intelligence systems, fire control sensors or identification friend-foe – our sensors are already delivering the information needed by numerous manned and unmanned aircraft types for surveillance, identification and target acquisition.

At the end of 2022, HENSOLDT as a member of the FCMS consortium, has been awarded a contract for the development of demonstrators in the core competence fields of radar, reconnaissance and self-protection electronics, optronics and also the overarching networking of sensor technology.

Within the framework of the international programme, demonstrators for individual sensor technologies will be created by the end of 2025 incl. first networking approaches. In subsequent demonstrator phases, the technology will be further matured towards a distributed sensor and electronic attack network.

In addition to its technical work packages, HENSOLDT is responsible for project management, central architecture work packages, and coordination between the other FCMS companies.