By Paolo Valpolini and Luca Peruzzi
Team Tempest, regrouping under the same umbrella the UK MoD, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, MBDA and Leonardo, unveiled the concept model of the future aircraft during a ceremony held at the BAE Systems stand at Farnborough Air Show, that saw Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson launching the national Combat Air Strategy. This will ensure the UK’s global leadership in combat air and provides a long-term vision for the sector as well as for international partners. The strategy establishes a programme that will lead the UK to deliver a future combat air capability by 2035. The Defence Secretary also confirmed the Future Combat Air Systems Technology Initiative that brings together the MoD and the industry to deliver over 2 billion £ of technology investment by 2025. Industry is contributing up to 50 percent on this investment and some of the 50 to 60 ‘national technology demonstrations’ that form part of the FCAS.
The head of agreement and contract between the UK MoD and industrial partners was signed just after the announcement, with a very tight timescale, and leverages lessons-learned of previous defence procurement projects with expected developments to innovate the acquisition procedures. Gavin Williamson stated clearly that he wants an acquisition business case by year end, and take ‘initial conclusions’ on international partners involvement by next summer, with a final investment in 2025. Partners have been said could be the nations around the world, including ones that haven’t worked with UK before. Williamson said the UK is looking to international collaboration, and that he is most willing to find new partners. Considering the participation of Leonardo, Italy seems to be a logic first candidate but as anticipated before the air show, Sweden was also been briefed on the topic. BAE Systems and the UK are also involved in fighter project around the world such as in South Korea and Turkey.
“Early decisions on how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025, with an aim to have operational capability by 2035”, Williamson said. After the announcement, Team Tempest officials clarified that no commitment has yet been made to build a flying demonstrator in the near-term, but developing technologies will be tested on some existing platforms.
The concept model unveiled at Farnborough by Team Tempest, which includes the MoD Rapid Capability Office, is a twin engine single-seater with central wing and V rear empennage. Among the features envisioned we find a modular weapons bay, a design that foresees a physical growth of the aircraft by adding pods of various types, distributed multi-spectral sensors, and reconfigurable communication systems. Moreover, while the mock-up is clearly a piloted aircraft, the Tempest looks at scalable autonomy, that is an unmanned version might be developed, this idea being already in the roots of the project. Affordability is another key factor, automated support options as well as advanced digital processes and tools being key in keeping the operational cost as limited as possible.
To make this article more readable we split the sub-articles based on briefings by the four different partner companies, that you can find clicking on the below logos