Britain has cast its bid to take the leading role in the sixth-generation air power, with its brand-new jet fighter – the Tempest. The new Combat Air Strategy and the Tempest’s concept were both revealed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson at the Farnborough International Air show.
The Secretary highlighted that he has taken actions to strengthen the UK’s role as a global leader in the Combat Air sector and as well his aim to protect key skills in the UK’s industrial base.
The 2018 National Security Capability review presented a picture of intensifying and evolving threat and confirmed the investment in the next generation of Combat Air technology. The sustained investment was established with The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and in 2018 and the future it still remains critical, according to the report.
The Combat Air Strategy is a sort of roadmap which identifies the decisions that need to be made now and in the future. It outlines the importance of Combat Air power as well as to bread some life in the industry. The Defence Secretary shall perform annual reports on the progress of implementing the strategy and the Ministry of Defence shall take a strategic approach toward attracting international and industrial partnerships and opportunities so that the skills and capacity in the industry are maintained and developed.
The Tempest concept reveal is of particular interest, since it comes a bit over a year after France and Germany forced Britain to withdraw from the partnership to build the new Eurofighter, as the New Atlas reports. The UK bets on the expertise it has received from the Typhoon and the know-how it has received from its partnership in the F-35 program to create the new fighter jet.
Currently the Tempest concept is a twin-engine, delta-wing, stealth fighter capable of carrying hypersonic missiles and controlling drone swarms. On top of that, it has an advanced power and propulsion system capable of powering laser weapons and has the ability to act as a flying command and control center due to its reconfigurable, cyber-hardened communications. The Tempest will be highly upgradeable on the inside and it has a plug-and-play flexible payload system.
Currently, there is only a concept, however if all goes according to plan by 2020 there will be confirmed design decisions and the first investments will happen by 2025. The date targeted to put it into operation is in 2035, 5 years before Germany and France’s Eurofighter.
The new jet fighter is of significance not only for the bolstering of Britain’s aerospace defense, but also to invigorate its aerospace design and manufacturing center, as well as to attract international partners that may assist in the development.
However, it does not come without challenges, as reported by the Drive, the aircraft, which the Tempest appears to take after has never flown and Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) came to a stop in 2005. Instead they purchased the F-35. The flight demonstration is also quite far away in time, at the least 6 years from now, which also creates uncertainty, due to the incoming Brexit, there is no promise that the economic and political situation in the country will remain as it is. It will have most likely changed significantly even before the Tempest project is in the testing phase. The Ministry of Defence will have to work extra hard to ensure that the Tempest does not result in failure similar to FOAS, and for it to compete with Germany and France’s Eurofighter.