Saudi Arabia Joins UK in Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Program

Saudi Arabia Joins UK in Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Program

Saudi Arabia broke with tradition, if previously it was known as an oil-rich country that was fixated on buying sophisticated defense equipment products, King Salman's Country is now making a breakthrough with the intention to join with Britain in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, namely the development of sixth generation fighter jets.

Quoted from (2/3/2023), the Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has signed a declaration of intent (DOI) to join the UK's FCAS program, although it is not clear whether this includes Saudi Arabia's involvement in the Tempest sixth generation fighter program. which is currently running.

Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman announced the DOI was signed with his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, on March 1, 2023, during a meeting in Riyadh regarding broader defense cooperation between the two countries.

"We signed a declaration of intent to participate in the FCAS program which will strengthen Saudi Arabia's defense capabilities through a comprehensive partnership covering joint production and research and development projects for future air systems," bin Salman said in a tweet from his official account.

Currently in the concept and assessment stages, the FCAS program consists of the FCAS Technology Initiative (FCAS TI) and the FCAS Acquisition Program (FCAS AP), and is geared towards delivering technology that will augment and subsequently replace the Eurofighter Typhoon in the Royal Air Force.

FCAS is a widely used acronym for the next-generation fighter project known as the Future Combat Air System, included within FCAS is the UK-led Tempest stealth fighter jet program, which was recently expanded to include Japan under a new framework called the Global Air Combat.

Official Saudi media briefs did not indicate whether Riyadh plans to join the British-led combat program directly, but defense analysts warn that such an alliance usually takes months or years to negotiate.

Plans to develop the FCAS were first announced in 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Shortly after, the UK-led FCAS was also being developed with Japan and Italy.

The UK's FCAS project (Tempest) is billed as a "game changing" that will utilize artificial intelligence for future battles. The aircraft, named the Tempest by the Royal Air Force, will be the most advanced jet operational upon takeoff in 2035.

The Tempest will later have no buttons in the cockpit, supported by artificial intelligence technology, allowing this fighter to remain in battle if the pilot loses consciousness.

Tempest can basically be flown with a crew and without a crew, this fighter jet is also prepared for teaming operations with the Loyal Wingman. From the specifications, the Tempest carries dual Rolls-Royce afterburning turbofan engines. The Tempest has a maximum speed of 2,500 km per hour and can fly up to a height of 15,500 meters. The flying range of this future fighter jet is 3,200 km.

As a stealth fighter, ammunition is stored in the bomb bay, although this aircraft also provides hardpoints for special missions. Tempest is 19 meters long, 13.5 meters wide and 5 meters high. The Tempest's empty weight is 14.5 tonnes, while the maximum takeoff weight is 25 tonnes.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the fighter would be at the "recent advance in defense technology". The plan is for the Tempest to replace the Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale with a combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, starting in 2040.

France, Germany and Spain last year reached an agreement to begin the next phase of FCAS to build fighter jets in Europe's largest defense project, which is expected to cost more than €100 billion (US$103.4 billion). FCAS was meant to be operational by 2040 but has been plagued by months of disagreements between Airbus and Dassault Aviation.

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