Europe’s defence industry is to continue maturing the technologies for a future tactical cargo aircraft under the latest phase of an EU-backed programme.

Outlined in its latest call for proposals, the European Defence Fund (EDF) has allocated €30 million ($32.5 million) for the Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC) programme.

German A400Ms at Wunstorf air base

Source: Bundeswehr

EDF is eyeing ‘complementary’ platform to larger A400M

Through the planned work, the industry will be able to mature the technologies required to “lower the risks” – and costs – of the FMTC’s proposed development “with a view to possibly enabling first flight of [a] prototype early 2030s”.

Described by some as the A200M due to its size relative to the larger Airbus Defence & Space A400M airlifter, the FMTC is needed to provide “a complementary capacity for tactical transport”, replacing legacy types such as the Lockheed Martin C-130.

For the latest work, the EDF is seeking the maturation of the “technology and concepts” for the aircraft.

This will include preliminary windtunnel testing to validate the performance of the proposed configuration using “low-cost scaled and modular aircraft models”.

Other areas for study include the propulsion system – potentially examining the use of open-rotor engines and a more-electrical architecture – lightweight structural materials, and a modular avionics system.

Among a wider selection of outputs, the call for proposals says the work should “ensure technology maturity and insertion for a mid-2030s tactical mid-sized cargo aircraft solution”.

Previously known as the Future Air System for European Tactical Transportation (FASETT) programme, that saw Airbus last year contracted to conduct an 18-month feasibility study phase.

Contained within the Airbus-led industry consortium were companies representing Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

Now adopted for the EDF-backed effort, FMTC was the name of a project begun under the EU’s PESCO initiative to foster defence co-operation between member states. It was led by France and involved Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.