Launch of the Task Force on the Fighter of the Future.

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Future Combat Air System Mockup. © Benoît Denet

In the coming weeks, the Belgian Royal High Institute for Defence will bring together important players from the Belgian industry in the framework of the working group “Next Generation Combat Aircraft Technologies“.

As foreseen in the ‘Defence, Industry & Research Strategy’ of Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder https://dedonder.belgium.be/en, this working group will examine the possibilities for Belgian industry to participate in projects for the development of next generation (6th) combat aircraft. The objective is to be able to formulate an opinion to the federal government in the course of June on the industrial possibilities of our country in this context.

The development of the fighter aircraft of the future is a long, complex and high-tech process, which offers many opportunities to Belgian industrial players. In order to fully exploit the potential of Belgian industry, the actors of Belgian industry will be brought together in the coming weeks within the “Next Generation Combat Aircraft Technologies” (NGCAT) working group, accompanied by the Royal Higher Institute of Defense.

The French Rafales should be replaced by a 6th generation fighter. © Benoît Denet

The intention is for Belgian industry stakeholders to discuss how they can contribute to the development of the fighter aircraft of the future, in view of potential future investment programs, orders and economic returns for the future. Belgian industry. Due to the great diversity of topics and thus also of opportunities, the working group is divided into different subgroups. In this way, more companies more specialized in certain fields can join the table. These companies must have relevant capacity and experience in engineering (aeronautics and space), production or service support and will be subject to a security check before being admitted to the working groups. The five subgroups that will be established are:

  • Aero structures and associated functions
  • Avionics, connectivity and embedded sensor systems
  • Propulsion and accessories
  • System of systems interconsistency
  • Disruptive Enabling Technologies
Le Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. © Benoît Denet

Cooperation with players from the Belgian defense and security industry in such working groups with a view to participating in development programs was provided for in the “Defence, Industry & Research Strategy” (DIRS) of Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder. With this DIRS, approved by the federal government on September 16, 2022 and presented to the business world on October 4, 2022, Defense plans no less than 1.8 billion euros by 2030 to collaborate with Belgian industry and d other possible partners in the field of research and development of new technologies and dual capabilities.

The intention is that the NGCAT working group will be able to formulate an opinion to the Federal Council of Ministers during the month of June, in order to allow the whole of the Federal Government to decide in which way the Belgian industry concerned can be guided and supported in the field of “Next Generation Combat Aircraft Technologies”.

The Boeing F-18F. © Benoît Denet

Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder: “By involving Belgian industrial players and research and development centers in such projects from the outset, we are once again placing our Belgian industry at the center of the European defense and security industry. This is the heart of the DIRS, and also of this working group: to examine and study the possibilities and new developments in collaboration with the Belgian industry. Our country has a lot of knowledge and expertise in-house and thus we ensure that this knowledge stays in our country, that there is a greater chance of future investments and orders from our Belgian high-tech companies and thus ensure the future of our companies. This is not only important for the companies themselves, but also for the strategic autonomy of our country and Europe in the field of security and defence. The war in Ukraine has shown, among other things, that our country and Europe must focus more than ever on greater strategic autonomy and a more robust defense and security industry. We are fully committed to this with the DIRS and this working group”.

Today various 6th generation combat aircraft programs are launched. Note the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), launched jointly by Great Britain, Japan and Italy. They were joined in December 2022 by Sweden.

The German Eurofighter. © Benoît Denet

Another program presented by France, Germany and Spain is the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This aircraft should replace the Rafales, Eurofighters and EF-18A in these three countries respectively by 2040.

Mockup of the Future Combat Air System. © Benoît Denet

The USA is not to be outdone with the F/A-XX program which should result in a combat aircraft to replace the F-18E/F Super Hornets in the US Navy and the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program for successor to the USAF F-22s.

China, Russia and India are also working on these 6th generation technologies.

The Spanish EF-18A. © Benoît Denet

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