LONDON – Britain’s efforts to develop a sixth-generation fighter jet are on track, and the design and evaluation phase of the program is expected to be approved by industry and government shortly, officials say involved in the discussions.
A Defense Ministry announcement on a contract starting the next phase of work on the future British-led Tempest combat air program is expected in the coming weeks, a BAE Systems spokesperson said.
“We are well on our way to the design and evaluation phase, with the common goal of launching the next phase of an international program to jointly develop and deliver a world-leading future combat air capability. We plan to agree on the concept and contract for the evaluation phase this summer, ”the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson would not be fired on a specific date, but Parliament is expected to enter summer recess in July, which could potentially trigger a contract announcement before that.
An agreement for the design and evaluation phase marks the first proper step towards the launch of a comprehensive program of 6th generation fighter jets by the British and their international partners.
The UK government has committed £ 2bn ($ 2.8bn) to the program over the next four years, and industry is expected to contribute as well.
The first work on Tempest was officially launched in mid-2018 with the UK government and industry partners BAE, Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce, starting the early stages of exploring and developing technology options under a partnership known as Team Tempest.
More recently, this work has included the participation of potential program partners, Italy and Sweden.
The likelihood of the three countries joining forces in the upcoming work phase increased late last year when governments announced they had signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to launch an international agenda. this summer.
The British government has also been in talks with Japan, looking at how nations can work together on their combined air combat needs.
The doors are also not closed to other partners on board.
“Right now the focus is on our program and its success as much as possible,” said Michael Christie, director of future combat air systems at BAE, at an online event hosted by the group on May 25. lobbying ADS. “We will continue to be open to further partnership discussions with others, but for now the main focus is to deliver what we have to offer,” he added.
Christie declined to set a timeline for the development of a Tempest prototype, but said the project remained on target of seeing the jet reach initial operational capability by the mid-2030s.
Over time, the jet will replace the Typhoon jets that currently form the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s air combat capabilities. The British also ordered 48 F-35Bs with an unknown number of jets to order.
“We are on schedule to start the design and evaluation phase as we planned in 2018. We were aiming for a contract award in 2021 and we are still on the right track for that,” said the executive of BAE.
In a statement, UK Defense Minister Jeremy Quin said the Tempest program would provide a big increase in employment and increase security capabilities.
“By investing in research and development to support this national effort to create the Future Combat Air System alongside our partners, we are boosting our combat air industry,” he said, referring to the official name of the program. of British development, not to be confused with the rival effort of continental Europe of France, Germany and Spain.
“Located at the heart of the country’s aerospace sector, the investment in FCAS reaffirms the government’s commitment to spend more than £ 2 billion over the next four years, with additional investment from industry, to build capacity military personnel that will keep us and our allies safe while creating thousands of skilled jobs across the UK, ”Quin said.
The importance of the future combat air system to the British military aerospace industry and the government’s broader prosperity agenda was illustrated by an updated version of a report published by PwC consultants on the economic impact of Tempest in Great Britain.
Analysts first released the report last October, but have since updated the document, commissioned by Team Tempest.
Some of the key takeaways from the report include:
- The Tempest program will bring £ 26.2 billion to the UK economy between 2021 and 2050.
- Team Tempest partners and their supply chain are expected to contribute £ 100 billion over the same period.
- The program will support an average of 21,000 employees per year.