UK Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart Laurent Collet-Billon have signed new agreements further strengthening the two countries’ partnership at the High Level Working Group in Paris.
The agreements involve the next phase of the UK-France Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) Demonstrator Programme, further hydrodynamics testing cooperation, and a support contract for Ajax, Warrior and French Jaguar weaponry.
The UCAS agreement enables the next phase of the programme to begin. This means that the three UK and three French companies (BAES, Dassault Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Safran, Leonardo and Thales) who have been working on the feasibility phase of the ambitious UCAS programme over the last two years will be able to further develop the programme in preparation for the full demonstrator phase, scheduled to begin in late 2017.
The agreement comes nine months after the announcement in March that €2bn were being allocated to build a prototype aircraft in the next stage of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme following a two-year, €150m joint feasibility study initiated in 2014.
The Demonstration Programme will develop two full-scale operational demonstrators by 2025. These demonstrators will be used for operational test and evaluation work over the following 5-10 years and could serve as the basis for a future operational capability beyond 2030.
Building on commitments made in the Lancaster House Treaty, the two countries will also work together to examine the future combat air environment, including innovative approaches to the integration of manned and unmanned systems.
The UK and France also deepened bilateral cooperation on hydrodynamic testing by signing a Specific Cooperative Arrangement (SCA). Hydrodynamic testing plays a vital role in water similar to that of a wind tunnel on land and in the air. Work over the next 18 months includes acoustic testing of different rotor blade profiles and Type 26 Global Combat Ship propeller testing.
On land, UK-French defence cooperation has led to the integration of the Case Telescoped Cannon (CTC) onto the Army’s new multi-role AJAX armoured vehicle and the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle, while France is integrating it onto the Jaguar armoured vehicle.