Team Tempest: Italy joints the UK and Sweden in the 6th generation fighter programme

Paolo Valpolini

While the UK focus in terms of aviation exhibition remains obviously the Farnborough Air Show, DSEI’s content in the air domain got a boost at the 2019 edition due to the announcement of Italy’s participation into the Tempest programme, the sixth generation aircraft aimed at answering the needs of future RAF Combat Air capabilities, announced in July 2018. Since that date Sweden announced its participation during this year Royal International Air Tattoo, which took place last July. With the addition of Italy, the UK-led programme reaches the same number of participant of its Franco-German competitor, the FCAS, which involves also Spain, the latter having announced its participation during the Paris Air Show in June 2019.

A Statement of Intent (SoI) was first signed on Day 1 of DSEI by Lt.Gen. (Italian Army) Nicolò Falsaperna, the Italian Defense Secretary General, and Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of the UK Defence Equipment & Support (click here for the UK MoD statement). This was followed by a second SOI, at industrial level, that saw on one side the four companies that started the programme over one year ago, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls Royce and MBDA UK, and on the other side Italian Industry players that will add their skills to the UK and Swedish ones, that is Leonardo Italy, Elettronica, Avio Aero and MBDA Italy.

The signature of the two SOI come after two feasibility studies, one at government and one at industry level were carried out in the last year. Convergence on operational issued were identified, which did not came to a surprise as the Royal Air Force and Italian Air Force have operated and operate similar aircraft in the last decades, two of them, the Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon being the fruit of a common industrial cooperation, the F-35 seeing both nations involved also on the industrial side.

Speaking at the announcement ceremony on Day 2 of DSEI, Charles Woodburn, Group Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems underlined that “our proven record of successful collaboration with Italian industry makes us certain that this partnership between our two nations is a strong fit for Tempest and demonstrates the growing momentum behind this important international endeavour.” Alessandro Profumo Chief Executive Officer, Leonardo, added, “our two nations have a long and shared history of success on international programmes and we believe that working together on Tempest will further strengthen each nation’s technological, industrial and skills base to ensure prosperity for decades to come.

Talking later to EDR On-Line Mr. Profumo said: “it is important that Italy came on board as a country. We were already part of the project with Leonardo’s UK component, thus all the electronics, however we bring in not only the Italian electronic component but also our aircraft design and manufacturing skills, which is obviously important. Moreover, aside the four Italian player which signed the SoI, we will also bring in numerous SMEs; key capacities that we would like to bring in have already been identified, using conditional is mandatory as we are still in a study phase, thus no information on specific capacities are yet available.” Underlining that the task of the enlarged Team Tempest is now to ensure that the programme will be successful, giving birth to an aircraft with optimal performances at an affordable cots, Profumo added: “the UK, Swedish and Italian air forces deploy a considerable number of aircraft, but of course the preliminary studies included an analysis of the potential market, which will be developed further. It is unclear which might be the actual competitors, however looking at the Typhoon experience we look forward to capture a considerable export market.”

Talking to a reduced number of journalists, Pasquale Di Bartolomeo, Managing Director MBDA Italia and MBDA Executive Group Director Sales & Business Development, said that “This is a great opportunity for MBDA Italia and we look forward to bringing to Tempest our own systems expertises and excellences, for example those in guidance and navigation and particularly in the seekers and radome domains, developed over decades of partnering in international programmes. I am fully convinced that we will be complementary to our British colleagues.”

MBDA effectors were exhibited at the Team Tempest stand; for an insight in the company involvement in the programme please click here.

“Elettronica is honored to be, as a national strategic company, among the signatories of the SOI on the Tempest that will allow us to maintain and increase skills and opportunities for our country in such a strategic sector,” Enzo Benigni, Elettronica CEO said. “We trust that the partnership between the two nations can evolve towards a new model of collaboration – like evolution of the EFA one – respecting the national technological sovereignties already acquired, and through an appropriate management of the design authorities,” he added.

Avio Aero will be the Italian add-on to the propulsion segment of the Tempest. “We are honoured and proud to be part of this strategic collaboration. This represents a unique opportunity for us, for our Industry and for Italy to ensure its tomorrow’s industrial leadership by developing cutting-edge technologies and know-how in the strategic field of aircraft propulsion”, said Riccardo Procacci, CEO of Avio Aero.