Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) International Collaboration
The project soon became enmeshed in some of the thinking about the Joint Strike Fighter and about modifying and upgrading the Eurofighter Typhoon, perhaps for a marine application. There were no plans to procure a UAV to provide an independent ISTAR capability for the Future Offensive Air System, although it was possible that an element of FOAS would be an unmanned combat air vehicle.
The UK had been a full collaborative partner with the US in the Concept Development it phase of the JSF program since 1996. The MOD noted in the Strategic Defence Review that the US Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was a strong contender to meet the requirement to replace the Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7 aircraft of the joint force Harrier in the early years of the next decade. In the light of further work on the various alternatives to meet the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft requirement, and of the successful progress of the JSF Concept Development phase, it was concluded that JSF was the option with the best potential to meet the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft requirement. On 17 January 2001 the Minister for Defence Procurement signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US Government that covered the next phase of the program, Engineering and Manufacturing Development. JSF would form a major part of the UK's future offensive air capability, along with Eurofighter and other air systems, for several decades to come. It had not yet been decided how the total capability requirement would be met over that period. Nor had the JSF variant been decided at this stage that would best meet the UK's requirements, nor the numbers of aircraft that might eventually be purchased. For the Future Offensive Air Systems project, the MOD continued to study a range of options, including manned aircraft, cruise missiles and uninhabited combat air vehicles. Allied to these studies was a program of technology demonstration, some collaborative, offering scope for work by the UK aerospace industry.
The Ministry of Defence and the Australian Department of Defense on 26 July 2000 agreed to exchange information on their programs for replacing strike aircraft. The agreement, signed at the Farnborough Air Show, covered the UK's Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) - replacement for the Tornado GR4 - and Australia's AIR 6000 program, which would replace the F/A-18 and F-111 aircraft. The agreement allowed the exchange of information and help develop co-operative concept and technology demonstration programs. It would cover the areas of common requirements, concepts of operations, operational analysis, technology acquisition, sharing of results on co-operative and national programs, sharing of acquisition policy and processes, and exchange of personnel.
The UK did not have a requirement for an airborne platform capable of delivering the same type or numbers of ordnance as carried by a B-52. However, the UK did have a requirement to replace, towards by 2020, the strike capability currently provided by the Tornado GR4 aircraft. While no decisions had yet been taken, studies continued on a potential mix of systems to deliver precision strike capability, including long-range cruise missiles, uninhabited air combat vehicles and manned aircraft. As part of this work the potential of large military and converted civil aircraft, such as the Airbus A340, to act as launch platforms for long-range conventional air launched cruise missiles was being considered. The United Kingdom and Australian Government were cooperating on work to demonstrate new technologies that would allow cruise missiles to be safely launched from large transport aircraft. This work was part of the UK's Future Offensive Air System project, and was being carried out by MBDA UK Ltd.
Non-Penetrating Large Aircraft carrying CALCMs were studied as a possible solution or part of the solution for FOAS. A competitive tendering process resulted in two parallel Phase One Study Contracts being awarded. The Phase One study addressed the required modifications to a wide range of large aircraft, from military transport aircraft to civilian passenger airliners. The aim of the contracts was to identify the issues associated with the development, modification, operation and support of such aircraft, and provide sufficient information on performance, costs and risks to permit an assessment to be made of the most promising concepts for more detailed study.
The Phase One Contract finished in Spring 1998. Both Phase One Contractors have been awarded a Phase Two Contract continuing until mid 1999. The CALCM weapon has also been studied to produce design parameters for the carriage, handling and release based on required range, aerodynamics and an optimised length for packing. Phase Two explored the detailed design for carriage, handling and release of the CALCM weapon and the design implications (in terms of performance, support, cost and risk) for a number of chosen representative aircraft. The output of the Phase Two study was data to support the definition of the FOAS requirements and to prepare for a quick start to the Assessment phase in 2001 if CALCM was selected for further study as a potential FOAS solution.
On 19 November 2001, Defense Ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom signed the European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP) declaration. This launched a joint technology program with European industry to sustain and develop European capabilities for combat air systems over the next two decades. The European Technology Acquisition Programme was a collaborative technology development program related to combat air systems. Its aim was to sustain and develop generic European capabilities over the next two decades. Although United Kingdom decisions on which technologies to pursue under ETAP would take account of the Future Offensive Air System project, it was not aimed at a specific equipment, nor was it intended as a means of procuring equipment. The FOAS program planned to carry out some technology demonstration work within a six-nation collaborative European Technology Acquisition Programme comprising France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
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