An open innovation project was launched – with over 40 technology exploration calls – to allow the proposal of innovative solutions to the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) Acceleration Initiative.

The Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched the project on 12 April 2023, and it will conclude this week on 19 May.

The GCAP Acceleration Initiative aims to speed up technological innovation by inviting startups, companies, research centres and academic institutions to propose solutions for application in the various components of the system of systems created under the GCAP.

Italian institution Cefriel has developed the Foresight Acceleration Platform (FAP), a digital platform for scouting proposals. The FAP protal hosts different types of open calls responding to the GCAP’s specific technological focus areas.

According to Leonardo, a leading Italian GCAP partner company, there are a variety of areas of technological exploration. These include the propulsion system, optical and laser systems, infrared sensors, low-observable or high thermal performance materials and metamaterials, navigation systems, model generation and digital twin development of aeronautical systems, aritifical intelligence (AI) applied to managing autonomous systems and mission systems, cyber security and integrated electronic devices.

The reality of emerging technologies

As it stands, no breakthrough solutions have been announced in Italy’s open innovation approach. A lot of the demands of the GCAP future system of systems requires emerging technologies that companies  are still developing.

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Hypersonics is a prime example. This area is a growing technology field that is relevant to the GCAP’s requirement for thermal performance materials and metamaterials. This is to enable the material coat of hypersonic weapons to withstand the thermal effects of a missile reaching five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).

Then US has reached an early stage of applying hypersonic weapons. The country is also making efforts to strengthen the resiliency of its domestic supply chains that contribute to the development of hypersonics.

How far the the Tempest team of European private sector defence companies will be able to emulate the relative success of the US in this technology area will take some time. However, with the current security posture of nations becoming increasingly in favour of greater international defence co-operation among allies, the GCAP programme will certainly see developments in hypersonics in the near future.