The firms involved in the Tempest programme (BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo’s UK arm and MBDA) are to increase the number of people working on the project from 1,000 to 2,500.
It is understood that the fighter is being developed jointly by the UK, Italy and Sweden with potential interest from Japan.
Andrew Kennedy, BAE Systems Strategic Campaigns Director, told press:
“We have to give the government confidence we are working towards a viable international partnership. They have to be confident we are doing something that will be affordable, capable and delivered on time.”
Recently, Leonardo announced that it has demonstrated the performance of a new radar receiver/warner technology as part of its on-going development work for Tempest.
“In a laboratory demonstration for the UK Ministry of Defence and other Team Tempest partners, the new sensor demonstrated a direction finding performance of four times what is possible with a typical radar warning receiver while being just 1/10th the size of a standard system. Leonardo UK is one of the four founding members of Team Tempest, which was brought together by the UK MOD to develop a next generation combat air system for the UK and partner nations: since the team was contracted to begin development work in 2018, Italy and Sweden have announced their intent to work with the UK on this project.
Leonardo’s UK role in the team is to develop Tempest’s sensor package and integrate these sensors into the platform’s mission system. The ambitious timescale for the Tempest project, which is working towards seeing a new aircraft in-service with the RAF in 2035, means that Leonardo in the UK is already hard at work developing some of the advanced technologies which will be needed to face the threats of the future.”
What is Tempest?
The project, named ‘Tempest’ is designed to showcase key technologies that will be important in the future. The jet, might end up looking nothing like the concept model.
BAE say that a future combat air system must be able to survive the most challenging combat environments meaning that payload-range, speed and manoeuvrability will be key.
“We expect that the system will be equipped with a range of sensors including radio frequency, active and passive electro-optical sensors and advanced electronic support measures to detect and intercept threats.”
The system say the defence giant, is likely to operate with kinetic and non-kinetic weapons.
The integration of Laser Directed Energy Weapons for self-defence and use within visual range combat is also highly likely. The use of directed energy weapons on aircraft is becoming reality as the US Air Force will shortly begin testing a laser that will be mounted on an F-15.
“We have got tests starting this summer and the flight tests next summer,” Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the US Air Force for science, technology and engineering, told reporters.
“There are still some technical challenges that we have to overcome, mainly size, weight, power.”
The Pentagon last year awarded a $26 million contract to Lockheed Martin for a laser program called SHiELD (Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator). The overall aim is to put a laser system on aircraft with an output of about 50 kw to test their ability against unmanned aircraft and missiles.
Another driver for the concept say BAE is that air forces of the future ‘will require a fighter system that is highly flexible and can be applied to a wide variety of military operations’, a multi-role aircraft then, which is not really all to different to most new aircraft today.
“Operators will have the ability to rapidly adapt the system to perform new functions or to change its performance. Depending on the mission, ‘role fit’ additions such as low observable conformal fuel tanks, weapons dispensers, air launched UAV dispensers, large modular sensors, long range oblique photography systems for reconnaissance and Laser Directed Energy Weapons could be available. Adaptability will be built into the system design, with systems architectures which support a ‘plug and play’ approach, easily integrating new algorithms and hardware.”
The system will also support ‘scalable autonomy’ say BAE, to provide a number of modes of unmanned operation and a range of pilot decisions aids when manned flight is being conducted. This concept is known to most as ‘optionally manned’.
An optionally piloted vehicle is a hybrid between a conventional aircraft and an unmanned aerial vehicle, able to fly with or without a human crew on board the aircraft. The thinking is that, unimpeded by a human’s physiological limitations, an OPV is able to operate under more adverse conditions and/or for greater endurance times.