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Future Offensive Air System (FOAS)

The 1998 Strategic Defense Review [SDR], in recognising that the UK faces a very different security environment from that of the Cold War, emphasised that risks still remain to UK security. International instability is likely to become more prevalent. The combat power of dangerous regimes assumes more significance as democratic countries reduce their armaments and there is an increasing risk from the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical technologies.

If UK forces are to be effective in this uncertain future, they must be structured and equipped to conduct force projection and expeditionary warfare. The SDR recognised that UK forces will normally be involved in multi-national operations based on NATO, UN, WEU or ad hoc coalitions. As different coalition partners will have varying capabilities, and US involvement cannot be assumed, the UK will require balanced, coherent forces, inherently flexible and deployable, and capable of operating effectively alongside forces from other countries. This balanced capability will also be required to fulfil the requirements of those exceptional circumstances when the UK will operate independently.

Part of the SDR process was the study of future offensive air power requirements, balancing the need for FOAS with that for future aircraft carriers and carrier-borne aircraft. Long-range air attack was found to remain important both as an integral part of war-fighting and as a coercive instrument to support political objectives.

The system must be flexible, and capable of all-weather, day/night operation at all levels. It must also be survivable in a high-threat environment. The trend towards more and more out-of-area operations make it essential that the system is easily supported, without the need for significant deployment of support equipment and personnel into theatre.

The FOAS requirement might not necessarily be satisfied in full by a single concept. Studies to define the most cost-effective solution are continuing. Possible solutions include a "force mix" approach of manned aircraft, UAVs and CALCMs although the exact nature, numbers and costs of these systems has not yet been decided.

Major milestones in the future are: The FOAS programme aims to provide the UK with a long-range offensive air capability to replace that currently provided by Tornado GR4. The FOAS solution should provide operational flexibility and utility across the range of military tasks outlined in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR). FOAS is predicted to enter service in about 20 years, at which point the Tornado GR4 airframes will have been in service for nearly 40 years and flown more than twice as many hours as their original design life.

Following a number of minor study programmes for generic future combat aircraft dating back to the late 1980s, the current FOAS Feasibility Studies were launched in October 1997. Since then four major activity streams have been undertaken:

FOAS is one of the pilot Integrated Project Teams (IPTs) within MOD's Smart Procurement Initiative. This IPT includes representatives from all areas of MOD involved in the project as well as DERA and Industry - by mid 1999 there should be half a dozen full-time DERA and Industry team members and more part-time support.

Within the Concept Studies there is a loosely-formed FOAS Alliance representing British Aerospace Military Aircraft and Aerostructures, Marconi Electronic Systems, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Industries. These companies have teamed strategically to ensure a consistent approach to the studies and, at working level, have formed IPTs to perform the study work. The largest of these IPT structures is at British Aerospace's Warton site, where more than 100 engineers are studying a wide range of both UAV and manned aircraft concepts along with MOD staff. Additionally there are other contractor teams led by Logica, Aerosystems International and Matra-BAe Dynamics who are primarily studying UAV and CALCM concepts. All of the teams, in conjunction with MOD and DERA staff, are looking into the balance and capabilities of these individual concepts when they are brought together into a mixed force.

Within the proposed Technology Demonstration Programme there will be a series of contractor groupings, with a different make-up for each TDP. The members of these groups range from the large airframe suppliers, through engine and avionics manufacturers to specialist materials and components suppliers with proportional representation from UK and French industry.

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