Tempest sixth-generation fighter moves forward with new design contract

Britain’s Tempest sixth-generation fighter jet is a step closer to reality after the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) awarded BAE Systems a contract for £250 million (US$348 million) to begin the program’s concept and assessment phase.

The cornerstone of Britain’s Future Combat Air System, the Tempest is being developed by the MOD, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, and Rolls-Royce under a trilateral agreement with Italy and Sweden. When it enters service in 2035, it will work alongside the Typhoon Eurofighter and the Lockheed Martin F-5 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, before eventually replacing them in the 2040s.

Under the new contract, the consortium will create the tools and techniques required to develop and assess the final design and capability specifications for the aircraft.

The twin-engine, delta-wing Tempest will include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous systems, which allow the craft to act as a flying command and control center while the pilot acts as an executive officer rather than a dogfighter. In addition, Tempest will have abundant surplus electrical power that will allow it to carry hypersonic missiles, control drone swarms, and run laser weapons.

“Working with our industry partners and the Ministry of Defence, we are on track to deliver an ambitious program for the UK, which will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defense capability, capable of countering future threats and safeguarding our national security and defense,” says Chris Boardman, Group Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Air Sector. “The funding announced today marks a critical next step for the program and, with our partners, we will work together to define the technical and capability requirements and develop the concept which will bring Tempest to life.”

Source: Ministry of Defence

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David Szondy