PARIS — Technology demonstrators are vital to cutting risk to industry and government, as they offer the chance to test designs before launching costly programs such as a future Franco-German fighter jet, said the chairman of GIFAS, the French aerospace, defense and security trade association.
There is much risk in moving from a “design on paper” to launching a program which may run into problems, Eric Trappier said at a Jan. 11 news conference. Airbus, who is a GIFAS member, points to the A400M military airlifter as a case in point, Trappier added.
In contrast, there is the program for a Neuron combat UAV, which saw study, development and production of a flying demonstrator costing €400 million (U.S. $478 million) over 7 to 8 years, he said. That allowed the partner countries to test technology for entry into a program, which will naturally require future funding.
The importance is to de-risk a project and to factor in the time needed to mature the technology; otherwise, industry is asked to assume the “high risk” of delivering 100 percent of performance targets, he said. The government also assumes that risk if serious problems are encountered.
Beyond the use of digital simulation studies, a demonstrator helps to prepare for the future for projects such as the future fighter jet for France and Germany, which will cost tens of billions of euros, he said.
There is a “weak note” in European defense with the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union, he said.
“We are worried about Brexit,” he said, adding that French and other European companies have many assets in the U.K. “We are watching with our British industrial friends and partners the events surrounding Brexit.”
Besides missile-maker MBDA, there are other GIFAS members including Thales, Airbus and Dassault “watching with close attention,” he said.
Trappier is chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation and was appointed last week as chairman of CIDEF, the trade association which represents GIFAS as well as GICAT, the association for the land weapons industry, and GICAT, for the naval sector. Trappier succeeds Hervé Guillou, chairman of Naval Group.
GIFAS reported 2016 sales of €60.4 billion, up from €58.8 billion in the previous year, with €73.1 billion of orders, down from €79.8 billion. Exports accounted for 77 percent of orders.
Defense sales in 2016 fell to €13.1 billion from €13.4 billion.
Airbus has booked over time some €7.2 billion of charges on the A400M program, which has incurred penalty payments for late delivery of the cargo plane.