The future of the Royal Air Force's strike capabilities, and possibly that of the European military aircraft industry, is at stake as work starts to determine the requirement for Britain's future offensive aircraft (FOA).
"The FOA is at the very early stages," says Mike Rouse, BAe Military Aircraft Division's managing director. "The conceptual studies are being managed by the MoD and they are looking at a variety of approaches, including variants of Tornado or Eurofighter, through to what are called uninhabited platforms [pilotless aircraft].
"Our interest is in an air platform as a successor to the types of BAe aircraft currently in service. It is important to us to be involved up front in development, production and export."
The futuristic BAe FOA appears to incorporate plenty of stealth technology. The capability to launch precision guided weapons, such as the Storm Shadow, or its successor will also be essential.
Some elements of the British aviation industry see the FOA programme as a way of providing a follow-on European combat aircraft to the Eurofighter. "FOA is more than likely going to be a European programme," said Rouse. "A JSF derivative is still a possibility."
He is not impressed by proposals to modify Tornados or Eurofighters for the job.
"The RAF's needs will not be met by existing or planned aircraft. It is important to launch a new aircraft to preserve key industry skills," he says. "We appreciate that budgets are tight and the MoD might not be able to afford it."
Source: Flight Daily News