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Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA)

The Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA) was a multi-role fighter/attack aircraft to replace Sea Harrier and following the Strategic Defence Review announcement, the Harrier GR7. A range of options were investigated, including collaboration with the United States on the Joint Strike Fighter program.

UK began examining options for a successor to Sea Harrier from 2012, under a Staff Target endorsed in 1996. FCBA was to provide the Fleet with a multi-role fighter/attack aircraft. The current planning assumption was the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) being developed for US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. UK contributed $200M as a full collaborative partner during the $2 billion JSF Concept Demonstration Phase under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in December 1995.

The phase began in November 1996 and would last four years. During this phase, the contractors will design and fly Concept Demonstration Aircraft, evolve their Preferred Weapon System Concepts for the production designs and submit competing proposals for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (E&MD - equivalent to UK Full Development). Providing the UK decides to contribute to E&MD as a full collaborative partner, the intention would be to agree an MoU for E&MD participation and to be fully involved in the contractor selection process, due to commence late in 2000.

Significant milestones would be:

  • Oct 1999: Ministerial approval of MoU negotiating position;
  • Oct 2000: Ministerial approval to sign MoU;
  • May 2001: Ministers confirm acceptability of selection result.

MOD was also conducting Feasibility Studies into fall-back options for FCBA in case JSF failed to meet Royal Navy needs and to inform future internal approval considerations.

Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA)

The previous Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA) title dated from the period before the 1998 Strategic Defence Review when the program was envisaged as a Sea Harrier replacement only. The decision to rename the FCBA program as Future Joint Combat Aircraft acknowledged that Joint Force 2000 would operate from land bases as well as aircraft carriers. The name change also reflected ministerial signature in January 2001 of the UK/US memorandum of understanding which recognised that the Joint Strike Fighter had the best potential to replace the current force of both Harriers and Sea Harriers.

It was announced in Washington on Friday 26 October 2001 that Lockheed Martin had been selected for the contract award. The UK participated fully in the selection process, and the aircraft would meet the UK future joint combat aircraft (FJCA) requirement. The F-35 incorporates advanced stealth technology and would be able to conduct multi-role operations from the sea and from the land. The decision represented a further important step, following the strategic defence review, to provide the UK with up-to-date flexible expeditionary air power capability.

The Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) would be configured to operate the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) as its primary aircraft. In addition to FJCA, the CVF requirement document as of 2001 set out a number of aircraft which should be considered for operation in a secondary role. This includes existing fixed and rotary wing aircraft which are compatible with carrier operations. Use of existing aircraft would depend. among other things, on their operational capability when CVF entered service, planned in 2001 for 2012.



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