The 3 years during which Doctor Will Roper led the acquisitions and R&D of the US Air Force, from February 2018 to January 2021, were marked by a dynamism forgotten for several decades by the American forces, both in the design of new combat aircraft and in the piloting of programs themselves. Architect of the " Digital Century Series »Which today oversees the USAF's programs, including the very promising Next Generation Air Dominance program, or NGAD, which should give birth to the replacement for the F-22 Raptor before 2030, and which could well produce a replacing the F-16 instead of the F-35A, but also the Skyborg program intended to design an artificial intelligence capable of piloting a large number of aircraft for a large number of missions, Will Roper has left his mark on the future of the US Air Force. And if he was brought to leave his post at the end of January 2021, it was only due to his political nature, and his appointment by Donald Trump; in any case at the request of the Pentagon.
Dr Roper has since joined the private sector, but it didn't take long for the Royal Air Force to get closer to him and his innovative vision for the future of the military aviation industry. Indeed, at the request of its Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, this one joined Squadron 601 in July, a unit recreated in 2019 to lead the reflection on these subjects. Quite naturally, he quickly turned to the FCAS program, his new generation Tempest fighter and his drone Loyal Wingman Mosquito, finding a framework comparable to the one he had to leave within the US Air Force with the NGAD and Skyborg programs. Will Roper will naturally not act as a decision-maker, as was the case previously, but as an advisor, in particular to facilitate the digital transformation of the British aviation industry, and thus allow it to switch to the paradigms of integral digital design. breaking in many ways with the traditional design used in Europe.
It is useful to remember that the application of this doctrine allowed Will Roper's teams to develop a first demonstrator of the NGAD program, it is true marked with the seal of secrecy, and this in just one year, and for a budget of less than $ 1 billion, according to the analysis made by certain US specialists on the basis of the resources available to the US Air Force for this program. However, if Great Britain has the ambition to make, and its aeronautical industry the skills to achieve it, the biggest threat which weighs today on the FCAS program is budgetary, number of specialists, including the UK's highest budgetary authority, believe that it will be difficult to finance a program with these ambitions, on time, with the resources provided by the British Ministry of Defense. And to consider that London today seeks above all to put itself in a position of strength in the case ofa possible merger with the European SCAF program, or if it were to collapse, to welcome Germany and potentially Spain.
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