The future of fighter aircraft and air defence systems will be one of the agenda topics at next week’s FIA Connect.

Leading the discussions on sixth generation fighters will be Douglas Barrie from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Before the disruption of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Farnborough Airshow 2018 saw the unveiling of the UK’s sixth generation fighter, Tempest. The Turkish and the European contenders were unveiled at last year’s Paris Airshow. One year on things are very different.

Barrie explained how the current climate may affect the programmes going ahead: “The pandemic has, if anything, actually sharpened the picture, simply because now with a commercial aerospace sector having such a hard time that it perhaps adds pressure on governments to look to the defence sector to bolster the whole industry. We’ve seen kind of suggestions of that certainly coming out of France and Germany, less indication so far in the UK.”

Consolidation is possible

He said that the national structures and consortia that we are seeing today may not be the same as those that go forward and produce the aircraft, adding that more consolidation was possible. Barrie added that governments would also have to be willing to support industry through “difficult times” to bring projects to fruition.

The UK’s Tempest project will form a key part of your debates that will be going on during FIA Connect. “It’s a phrase I don’t like, where, but we are actually at an inflection point,” said Barrie. “It’s probably the one time I can use that phrase and not feel vaguely guilty about using it. And this plays out across all of the European defence aerospace sector, and just how important the decisions that will be made in the next few years are going to fundamentally shape how the European defence aerospace sector moves ahead, what it looks like over the coming decades.

He added: “A part of defence debate in the UK and in Europe, in terms of the aerospace sector, is what the next generation of combat aircraft look like, which teams are going to build on them who’s gonna be involved nationally.”
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