Britain is looking to maintain a leading role in future combat aircraft projects according to Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier.

Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier, chief of staff of the Royal Air Force said:

“We have world leading capabilities. We are going to define what we want to do in the future. What we’re not going to do is follow where other nations go” he said after a conference of global air chiefs.

“I don’t feel that the UK’s role in this is to chase after France and Germany.”

Hillier reportedly also noted Britain had played a key role in development of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35.

The UK and Sweden recently conducted initial talks regarding collaboration on a future fighter aircraft.

This story has now been featured by many outlets however it was broken by the Financial Times.

The organisation say that the MoD is looking to new aerospace partners after being left out of Franco-German programme. This isn’ t new, last year BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries signed an agreement to collaborate on the first development phase of an indigenous fifth-generation fighter jet for the Turkish Air Force.

The planned aircraft, the ‘TFX’ is expected to be a twin-engine, fifth-generation Turkish ‘aerial superiority fighter’. The aircraft is planned to replace F-16 in Turkush service. As far back as December 2015, Turkey had indicated that it intended to chose BAE Systems to assist with the design of the fighter.

It is understood that Rolls-Royce have offered Turkey EJ200 engine technology transfer and joint-development of a derivative for the TFX. Signing this agreement in Ankara in the presence of The Prime Ministers of Turkey and the United Kingdom, BAE Systems Chief Executive, Ian King, said:

“BAE Systems is a leader in designing, manufacturing and supporting fighter aircraft and is in an excellent position to contribute technical and engineering expertise and experience of managing complex projects to this key Turkish programme. The announcement signals an exciting next step in relations between both Turkey and the UK with the co-operation between BAE Systems and TAI paving the way for a deeper defence partnership. The agreement confirms ongoing collaborative work on the design and development of the aircraft.”

At its peak hundreds of Turkish and UK engineers will collaborate on the TF-X programme helping to support collaboration on the skills, technology and technical expertise required to deliver the programme.

The news regarding Sweden comes as the UK is preparing to release its Combat Air Strategy. This strategy will examine the operational capability needed in the future and the skills and resource required to deliver it. The work will take new and emerging technology into account, as well as export potential, whilst testing British industry’s ability to deliver our future requirements.

It is expected to be launched at the Farnborough Air Show.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Since the birth of airpower, British industry has been crucial to maintaining our military’s world-leading position. As we celebrate 100 years of the RAF protecting our skies, it is fitting that we create bold and ambitious plans to help our brave Armed Forces keep us safe in the face of intensifying threats. The Combat Air Strategy will bring together the best of British engineering, skill and design, and deliver a compelling vision for the future of air power.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said:

“It is especially fitting that we launch the Combat Air Strategy as our Royal Air Force marks its 100th anniversary. Combat Air capabilities have been at the heart of the RAF’s capabilities throughout its history, and are constantly employed on operations across the world today.

This strategy will ensure that the RAF can continue to remain at the forefront of the high-end airpower technology and innovation we need to deal with future threats, working in close collaboration with UK industry and our international partners.”

The UK is already a major player in the air sector which accounts for 85% of the Britain’s defence export orders. The industry is made up of close to 2,500 companies, generating more than £33.5bn in turnover and employing more than 128,000 people – some 26,000 of them in highly skilled research, design and engineering jobs say the MoD.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike Saul

No deal with the French then

David steeper

Yay !




whatever the outcome, speed of production must be one area where its manufacture, foreign sales will be a big deal, the poor rate of typhoon/f 35 production makes you wonder if its worth all the effort getting them,was worth it.


Is it just my simple mind, or do manless planes offer the opportunity to operate more airframes? If the answer is yes, then this project and others and others like it should be pursued with vigor. Obviously, any manless craft will need a dedicated land-based controller and ground crew, but the savings could be substantial over today’s manned flight? I would imagine for the foreseeable future, the mix will be 70-30 in terms of operation and a steady increase over the next thirty years in manless missions?


Practically yes, but no in that we do not have the algorithms and software to so so yet. On a prototype level we have them, but there will be many years before these are deployed.


Not sure that’s quite right Frank. An f35 could do the targeting and direct a number of Taranis (lets say) onto target. The flight data etc can be easily programmed (with multiple routes/strategies) and the pilot in the F35 could simply choose the selected path and targeting characteristics. No algorithms needed, the MADL encrypted secure line is all that is really needed here and a GPS and targeting system. I think the UK is right to insist on person in the loop and see this as being an F35 pilot for the majority of our tasks. Taranis should cost £20-40m… Read more »


Interesting, your scenario could certainly help cover the weaknesses of the F35 in terms of range and weapon capacity and very much play to its strengths even if over time it’s stealth characteristics starts to become Compromised. Could blend in rather well if feasible.


Nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room regarding unmanned air systems. There must be a man in the loop else there be a legal nightmare. There’s already major concerns from the CAA governing flying these in congested airspace. There will have to be some form of AI controlling collision avoidance but I don’t think we’re there yet. The manned fighter will be here for quite some time until they sought out both the legal and physical issues of flying a significant number of UAVs in peacetime airspare.

Douglas Newell

Until they can get AI that can do everything a pilot can do and also be able to fit it into an airframe where it is able to function independently (just as a Pilot Does) – we’ll never have “pilotless” warplanes. Don’t hold your breath – they are a long, long way away.


Just stick a female pilot in a Typhoon.



Douglas Newell

Crikey, I certainly wouldn’t give Turkey the secrets of the EJ2000 engine, I wouldn’t trust them … mainly due to “proto-Hitler” Erdogan. Big mistake from our political masters to help him out.


Fellow member of NATO.

Mark H

Turkey has been useful for basing aircraft and missles . Otherwise, current leadership makes for an unreliable NATO partner, and a poor choice for sharing advanced military technology.


it’s hardly cutting edge any more


)Chris H) RR has already moved the EJ200 design on from where Eurofighter use it in the Typhoon and from where the Turks will co – build. This of course safeguards our future aircraft and opens up the upgrade market for secure friends flying Typhoon. So not Germany … What mystifies me is how on earth the Yanks could think it was a really good idea to give the rebuilding of F135 engines from F-35s to the Turks. I mean they know the square root of sod all about jet engines and why they need this co-operative deal with RR.… Read more »


quite refreshing to read. whether the lefty fracker commie Corbyn creatures like it or not, leading in weapon systems development is great economically for any country.


(Chris H) That would be the Commie Corbyn who was happily slagging off and insulting the President of the United States on his first visit here while ensconced with his Leftie Guardian echo chamber friends banging saucepans in London. And meanwhile in the real world the PM was being as courteous as she could be given The Donald’s insults and trying to correct him on his lack of understanding of what the EU White Paper actually said and keeping him on side for a Trade Deal. Something that will be really needed post Brexit as they are our biggest single… Read more »

Evan P

Seriously do you get some sort of kick out of slagging off an irrelevant member of parliament? It baffles me.


(Chris H) Evan P – No not at all. I couldn’t care less about ‘irrelevant members of parliament’. And it baffles me why ask that question. But I care greatly when a prospective and highly probable PM and Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition seems happier consorting with people who think bashing saucepans is really really clever, who carry placards with that disgraceful word ‘C*NT’ on them while holding hands with kids and who cannot comprehend the difference between a President and individual who holds that position. A man who feels happier gobbing off at Glasto rather than share pride… Read more »


What has this got to do with the article. So boring and predictable by both of you. Chris, D Trump showed nothing but dispespect to our political establishment, to insist and repeat that a former minister who has just resigned from T Mays government would make a great prime minister while visiting the prime minister is about as disrespectful as you can get. I’m not her biggest fan to say the least, certainly not a cheerleader unlike some, but I felt sorry for her being embarrassed at home and embarrassed in front of the worlds press. And please wake up… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

Again, completely agree with you Sole.


(Chris H) Sole Survivor & Sceptical – Look Someone posted a comment to which I replied. Its how this forum works. And if you feel that seriously about ‘relevance’ why did YOU comment as well if its ‘irrelevant’. You just made it ‘relevant’…. Think on chaps. And please stop this ‘chlorinated chicken’ trigger phrasing. Its boring and an exaggeration. You eat British salads cleaned in chlorine. You drink water with Fluoride in it and in some cases cleaned earlier in the process with chlorine. And I guess you didn’t pay too much attention to the post Chequers Press Conference –… Read more »


Oh come on Chris, look at the state of what he wrote “lefty fracker commie Corbyn creatures” What even is that? I think he’s trying to slip in anti-fracking somewhere but instead called them frackers, it was a pathetic, confused post, certainly in my mind doesn’t deserve any kind of response except ridicule, the standard of debate should be better than that. About a US trade deal, it was all bluster Chris, do you believe a word he says? He is a proven liar. Liam fox had a meeting with US trade officials and we have heard nothing since, the… Read more »


(Chris H) SoleSurvivor – It doesn’t matter whether I believe Trump or not. He has said in a very public forum that the USA wants a free trade deal with the UK. We are mutually very beneficial to each other in trade just look at the way we benefit rather more from trade with the USA than we do from trade with 27 EU countries. We are each others biggest inward investors – that is far more valuable than actual trade volumes. You are not accurate about Liam Fox. He was on TV Channels this very morning (Saturday) explaining what… Read more »


Of course it matters if you believe him or not, you’ve called him a f*****t but because he’s speaking in a public forum it’s gospel. He also said at that press conference that he predicted the Brexit vote when he was last at his golf resort in Scotland, he arrived the day after the result had already been announced the lair. He told lies about the Sun interview even though it’s on tape. He’s been on video saying the US pays for 90% of the NATO budget, that’s a complete lie. There are many more, he’s been telling lies in… Read more »


(Chris H) Solesurvivor – Once again you foist words on me I never wrote. Where exactly do I say I was ‘happy for the NHS to be sued’? I never dd. What you did there was divert away from the fact that no one could sue anybody unless it was based in the UK OR if it was a trade related matter it would go to the agreed Resolution Body. So again you fabricate a position to suit your argument. The ‘inconvenient truth’ to which I was referring was (as you well know) to compare the hypocrisy of people who… Read more »


Chris “What you did there was divert away from the fact that no one could sue anybody unless it was based in the UK OR if it was a trade related matter it would go to the agreed Resolution Body” That’s where you are wrong i’m afraid, you need to understand why the US-EU free trade agreement failed, it has had 14 rounds of negotiations and not even the first chapter of 27 has been agreed, its about as far away as Turkey joining the EU (a million miles) “TTIP is that it could allow multinational corporations to effectively “sue”… Read more »


(Chris H) SoleSurvivor – In your argument then the rest of the world outside the EU is in utter chaos, riven with court cases with the US conglomerates dominating global trade. if that is the case how come the USA runs major deficits with most countries? And the WTO has no say either? Oh and by the way every trade deal has a resolution body sometimes it is just left to the WTO but neither side can dictate to the other. Its why we will NOT be under the jurisdiction of the ECJ as part of our EU trade deal… Read more »


It isn’t my argument, it’s facts, you’re not understanding. I feel like we are going round in circles here, why would the rest of the world be sued by US companies? The US doesn’t have a trade deal with the whole world, I was talking about NAFTA and TTIP, the WTO has no say in that because they are independent trade deals with the rules and legislation decided by the parties in the trade deal. I answered your question about privatisation of the NHS clearly in paragraph 5,6,7,8,9 and 10 of my last comment I’m not repeating myself. Infact everything… Read more »


(Chris H) Solesurvivor – You have made a considerable contribution to a discussion which you originally challenged as relevant. It was not myself that opened up the debate on the US vs EU vs whatever. You did that with the rather inane Momentum Trigger Phrase ‘smell the chlorinated chicken’ comment. Up to that point I was discussing the threat that Corbyn and his commie chums pose to the UK’s economy and military. So you call out someone on relevance then divert the discussion making it even further irrelevant and then get all het up because I disagree with you. If… Read more »


How is any of this relevant can we stay on topic


Anyone but the French and Germans. France walked away from the Eurofighter project and produced it’s own carbon copy, can’t be trusted


Yes and we walked away from the Horizon-class project and produced our own “carbon copy” in the Type 45. That’s what happens when the requirements of the partners in multinational programmes diverge too much. The French walked away from the Eurofighter programme because they wanted a platform that they could operate from their carrier, a capability that the other members of the consortium were not enthusiastic about.


(Chris H) Daniel – You forgot to mention the bit about the French demanding total lead in the project, majority workshare and use of inferior SNECMA engines. What the other members of the consortium were ACTUALLY not enthusiastic about. Adding naval capability at that design stage adds very little cost

John Clark

I would point out Chris that adding Naval capability did comprise the Rafael, as it constrained the size and added to the structural weight.

That said, it’s still a fine aircraft, just lacking against Typhoon.


Dealing with the French and Germans would be impossible given that they only want UK to join after they have established the programme – i.e. 2nd tier partner. The UK is better off starting their own programme with Sweden, Japan etc.


I think we should wait, no one knows what a 6th gen aircraft is going to look like and we may end up making the same mistake as typhoon with a 4.5 gen aircraft,

In the mean time we should focus on a Taranis UCAV to replace Tornado and supplement our 107 tranche 3 Typhoons and 48 F35 B.

Mike Saul

Historic examples of where France has stitched us up. 1. Anglo French helicopter deal. UK to buy 200 gazelle and 48 puma, France to buy 100 army lynx and 20 navy lynx. France did not buy army lynx after UK contracted to buy gazelle/puma. 2. Anglo French combat jet deal. UK buys 200 Jaguar while France would buy UK designed AFVG (which became Tornado). France did not buy AFVG and developed Mirage G8 instead after UK contracted to buy Jaguar. 3. Eurofighter. France demanded design leadership and when this was denied developed Rafale instead. 4 Horizon destroyer project. France demanded… Read more »


(Chris H) Mike Saul – You forgot the way the French also baled out of the QE / PA-02 carrier project leaving us to build two rather than share the economies of scale of building 4 between us. They are a treacherous bunch who manipulate everything for their own benefit. Possibly an admirable trait if you are French but not otherwise. The way Airbus are threatening the UK over Brexit isn’t business its the French Government playing politics. Well I hope both Dassault and Airbus screw each other over. Meanwhile we can now do our own rather excellent thing preferably… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

All Airbus has done is point out the blinking obvious. The possible introduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers would be a severe handicap to their design and production system, as well as restrictions on the free movement of engineers. They would be forced to reconsider all their investment plans and sourcing strategies. It’s something that the car industry executives from all over the world have also said, as well as leaders from other industries. Nothing to do with French or any other sort of politics. In fact, the first person to voice this was Airbus’ COO, Tom Williams, a Brit… Read more »


(Chris H) Sceptical once again you move a discussion to a presumed scenario to suit your views. The only way there will be any Tariffs or prohibitive quotas / regulations or God Forbis a hard border in Ireland is if the EU keep playing politics and forces a ‘No Deal’. The UK has always stated it wants a Free Trade Deal nothing else. The UK will be (when it leaves) the most closely aligned ‘3rd Country’ in the world to the EU. Its systems, rules, standards and laws are all totally in accordance with the EU’s. Why? Because the Eu… Read more »

Andy a

Please I voted remain but seeing how we are now treated let’s just leave. The other eu players manipulate the rules to better there nations something the uk doesn’t do cos not cricket. Military deals, partnerships, ordering support ships. In every way they play the game while we play fair. They set the tone for Brexit, keeping us out of space program, next generation fighter, intelligence network that we contribute more too and foil attacks on mainland. Enough I was remainer but God’s sake less talk let’s just do it.


What ever happened to the future FCAS, or will that be a UCAV, and wasn’t their talks with Japan, although they are probably to mixed In with the US, UK has a lot of fingers in the pie right now!
With the Swedish though, they are great and aircraft, they have the expertise but the requirements are very different surely(single engine vs twin), Im a bit of a noob on aerospace so don’t shoot me.
Also will this be a typhoon replacement or are we to look at this as a tornado(overdue) replacement and work alongside typhoon, lightning and FCAS?

john melling

A great idea to be part of a next gen aircraft.

I would also like to see the new generation Hawks (Advanced Hawk) be bought and used by the RAF
Their duel Training and Combat role… would boost our capability.

My dad worked At BAE, for over 30 years. So all this BAE bashing is all a bit OTT.

Yes it would be good to see other companies prove themselves…. up to the government I guess!


BAE did quite well on aircraft side. Shame they got out of the civil side work too. BAE’s record on the complex ship work less good but still ok, all of these big programs have problems look what happens elsewhere globally it is not all plain sailing (or flying).

Andy a

Trouble is next gen hawk is ok for hitting second string opposition but if we go up against first team? Prob not. As a trainer and reserve, brilliant

Mike Saul

BAE is a hugely successful multinational defence company, we should be proud of their success. However there are parts of the company on the UK which are solely dependent on UK MOD contracts that deliver over priced poor quality equipment to the UK armed forces. Who is to blame for this situation? The UK MOD and the politicians who created it. For markets to work properly you need competition to deliver on quality and price, that is why the T31 should go to the company that offers the best solution. Regards Typhoon, a great success. But it’s development was slow… Read more »


Well said and well remembered, everyone seems to have forgotten about the shambles the German government created with its indecision and delaying tactics.
I witnessed it on the Project Horizon fiasco, everyone wants design leadership, and when they dont get it, they go their own way to get it

John Clark

As I recall, project Horizon was never a good fit for the RN, as the design was optimised for Mediterranean operations.

The T45 is designed from the keel up to take on the worse that the North Atlantic can throw at it.

Power generation issues baside of course…

Nigel Collins

It amazes me just how long we take to get a project off the ground, while the Chinese can build four new warships in just over a year.

By the time we get the first type 26 into the water, they will have constructed an entire new fleet the size of our current one! Including the 26!!!

Nigel Collins

Posted in the wrong thread, apologies!


In 2010 we had circa 300 combat aircraft operationally available. 72 Harriers 120 Tornados 100 typhoons Today we have 100-120 Typhoon almost 50% less 12 F35b 40 Tornado GR4 It’s worth pointing out that since 1990 our combat jet fleet has reduced by circa 80% whilst its commitments have not. Tasking is pretty consistent – apart from a large uptick in QRA activity as a result of Russia’s ongoing build up. My view is that we need an operational fleet of 138 F35b’s for the fleet air arm to replace the old Harrier fleet and regenerate a fleet that allows… Read more »

John Clark

Once Centurion has been fully implemented on Typhoon and F35 numbers and the platform have matured, things will improve somewhat.

The overall number is still to low, the quality and capability of the new and upgraded machines is a step change, even compared to 2010.

A comparatively small force of 20 Centurion upgraded Typhoons, with the full range of offensive and defensive weapons, will be a very potent force indeed.

Well able to bloody the nose of any would be aggressor…


Agreed John

But we actually need to have a force of quality and depth, its no use giving someone a bloody nose if you lose.

The kit we had in 2010 was world class at the time and we had more of it.

I dont mind how we do it – but we have to have a larger force (in all areas) that can sustain losses

John Clark

Totally agree Pacman, we need more Typhoons and F35’S filling the ranks. It’s interesting to ponder the future, it could go in a number of directions, let’s hope the numbers rise. I would think a future Anglo Swedish fighter could potentially be a serious player in the world market. Let’s say a single engine medium fighter, that finds its place in a market dominated by the F35 … It’s going to have to be sufficiently different and cost effective to make it viable, a tall order, but not impossible. A fighter with a 40,000lb thrust rated single engine, large single… Read more »


No. Unmanned doesn’t mean necessarily cheaper or less personnel. Their will still need to be a pilot in the loop. There won’t be any real savings in training costs. And the idea that this means anybody good at video games could become a drone pilot ace is pure fantasy.

Perhaps the biggest problem we face on this front is that the USN have already started down the UCAV route and we chose not to go CTOL with QEC so we could follow them along this road.


I know the debate about whether F-35 is a marvel or a turkey or somewhere inbetween continues to rage but, as far as the UK’s part in it and what we are getting out of it is concerned I think it is a model that has worked pretty well for us and it wouldn’t be a disaster if something similar emerged for the next-generation fighter as far as partnership is concerned. If the UK were to get really ambitious in terms of leading or even almost entirely home-growing a project my pick would be medium sized drones, maybe in range… Read more »


No No No. Britain will lead in the next generation! OK.

Declan Brady

What have Jeremy Cornyn, Theresa May and a racist, bigoted, pig, got to do with the items talked about on this website?
I thought that this great website is about Military matters and not about people’s political persuasions and the incessant lies about Brexit (from all sides of the political devide) and huge trade deals that are only beneficial and unfairly loaded in favour of uncle Sam (remember America First).
Can we please keep this to military matters rather than the boring hyperbole we have to put up with in the gutter press…..

Nigel Collins

Fingers crossed!

“There will be additional money for two new spaceports – one in Cornwall, one in Scotland – and a long-awaited commitment to build a new high-tech fighter aircraft that will eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon”.