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Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC)
Joint Future European Airlifter (JFEA)

Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC)The objective of this PESCO project is to increase the air mobility capabilities of the armed forces of EU Member States with the new Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC). It seeks to complement the missions of the A400M, including on narrow and short unprepared strips, to face collectively and efficiently the upcoming transport challenges in military operations or crisis response situations. The establishment of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) by the Council in December 2017 has raised cooperation on defence among the participating EU Member States to a new level.

On 23 June 2022, France, Germany and Sweden signed an agreement under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (PFUE). The Air and Space Force (AAE) hosted the PFUE European Wings event from 22 to 23 June 2022. This event brought together around ten Chiefs of Staff of the Air Forces and European civil and military authorities. The objective of European Wings was to demonstrate the strategic importance of air assets for European Union crisis management operations, the imperative of securing access to contested airspace, and the need for cooperation in the increasing the power of air assets, in particular at the top of the spectrum, to the benefit of the freedom of action of EU and NATO missions.

Co-organized by the French Air and Space Force and the European Defense Agency, a seminar on the deployment of the Strategic Compass in the air domain took place in Orléans. It was during this event on the morning of June 23 that an agreement was signed for the Future Mid-Size Tactical Cargo (FMTC), a tactical transport aircraft project replacing, by 2040, the C-130 Hercules and Casa CN-235 fleets. Supported by the European Defense Agency, this agreement allows the definition of the aircraft intended to operate in addition to the A400M fleet from 2040. The project brings together several partners including France, Germany and Sweden. Other countries could soon join it. This signature marks a first major step for the FMTC project to converge towards more precise common specifications. Subsequent industrial feasibility studies could lead to the launch of the development of this new aircraft around 2026-2027.

According to a parliamentary report written by the French deputies Benjamin Griveaux and Jean-Louis Thiériot in July 2020, Airbus is working on a project that the French military calls "Future Medium Tactical Cargo aircraft" (FCTM). It's supposed to replace the CN-235s and C-130Hs of the French airforce und will incorporate many elements of the A400M, including the engines.

Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC)Two engines off the A400M yields a massive 16,400kw, nearly 4 times the power of the CN-295 and 18% more power than the C-130J. Two TP400 engines in a conventional winged design would result in a huge aircraft. More expensive than a C-130J and with only 15t payload it will be vastly inferior. A new Transall with engines around 4500kw and 16t payload is exactly the power of the proposed PWC Next Generation Regional Turboprop. If it isn’t close to the payload of a C-130J then it won’t be a viable replacement and if it is close to the payload of a C-130J it won’t be a viable CN-235 replacement. They could just build a C-27J sized aircraft and call it the middle but that hasn’t been a resounding success either.

Re-using the basic A400M (shortened) fuselage might make a lot of sense, contingent on costs somehow being much lower for the ‘little brother.’ Armored vehicles are a key role it serves, and they are getting fatter/heavier across the globe (often too much for a C-130 cargo box). If it could just be "similarly sized" as or a bit bigger than the C-130J, then it seems sensible to buy more of it or the C-130J-30...rather than wait and spend more for something Italy might be interested in indefinitely. It seems the cross section is a big decision. The C-27J and KC-390 have the best cross section on the market. The vehicles transported seems to fit into two size categories light and medium.

Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC)Light armoured vehicles that often get used on civilian roads usually max out at 2.5m wide and 2.5m high. This is far too big for the CN-295 but all of them fit in the C-27J with enough room to squeeze down the side. The C-27J can also fit a standard, full height 463L pallet while being able to squeeze down the side. The C-130 still tops the C27J in both height and width so there are still certain cargo w/c can't fit the C27J but will fit in the C-130. However, more than 75% of military transport flights are performed with less than 10 Tons of cargo and less than 50 soldiers and this is where the C-27J comes in. Operators simply use their C-130s in their inventory for anything that won't the C295. Hence, the reason they think they do not need something in-between like what the C-27J provides.

The French Air Force put forward a project for the future medium tactical cargo aircraft (FCTM), intended to replace both the C130 and the Casa, fleets now aging. This FCTM, which would be a direct competitor of the American C130J, would make in the eyes of the Air Force an excellent product for a European recovery plan. Airbus is designing an aircraft that fits into the capacity segment of the C130 and incorporates many elements of the A400M, including the engines, which makes it possible to envisage economies of scale in terms of training, logistics and employment. The Spaniards, in particular, might be interested in this project. Better still than European defense fund support, such a project could be financed under the European recovery plan, for five or six billion euros.

The Italian Ministry of Defence released a Document in which it outlines the planned investment for all branches of the Armed Forces in the near future and for the Air Force one interesting paragraph is the need for a C-130J replacement. The ItAF currently operates about 20 C-130J and J-30 which have been delivered in the early 2000s, Italy being one of the earliest customers for the newest Hercules version. The proposed new Airbus medium lifter might become available right when the Italian Hercules reach the end of their service life.

Germany and Sweden have joined France to study the future development of a new generation European airlifter that could replace the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the CASA CN235. According to a 30 June 2022 press release from the French Air Force, the three countries signed a working agreement. French officials had previously hinted that the new platform would incorporate many components from the A400M, such as engines.

Tactical transport aircrafts are the workhorses of battlefields, fulfilling missions like airdrop delivery, parachutist drop, logistics, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), air to air refuelling, special missions under harsh and adverse conditions, which are critical for the success of military operations. Operations in hostile environments demand e.g., built in electronic warfare self-protection systems and set requirements on the platform performance/build up in order to be suitable for the task, and furthermore to operate with limited ground infrastructure (e.g., unprepared runways).

Beyond their pure military role, tactical transport aircrafts are also key assets for a better civil defence/protection and EU-internal needs, with critical contribution to disaster relief, search-and-rescue and sanitary crises response.

Beside the A400M, which is on the high-performance side of the capacity, the initial conception of the majority of currently operating tactical aircraft (C130, C-295, C-27J …) is now 40 years old, and there is a need for a new medium tactical European aircraft, lighter than the A400M that could provide a complementary capacity for tactical transport.

Currently, some EU Member States are operating medium payload tactical military transport aircrafts within their fleet, which can be replaced with growing capabilities, able to cope with the envisaged operational challenges.

The Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo aircraft (FMTC) feasibility study proposal for EDF 2022 addresses this coming strategic gap within the European transport portfolio. FMTC proposes a cooperative analysis of the transport aircraft replacement needs on the 2030-2050 horizon and the identification of European development opportunities, among the EDF participating Member States and associated countries.

This topic is an opportunity for Europe to federate efforts by providing the EU defence community (nations and industry) with robust elements to decide what the 2035+ future of EU military tactical transport could be.

A subsequent design phase would provide a proposal for a best candidate solution based on a complete value analysis covering performances, costs, risks, modularity, manufacturability, safety, consistency with Member States and Norway’ operational needs, with jointly defined detailed criteria and hypothesis.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2022 18:51:07 ZULU