The Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract worth approximately £250m to progress the design and development of Tempest, the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The contract, signed by BAE Systems, officially marks the start of the programme’s concept and assessment phase.
According to the firm in a news release:
“Continued funding of Tempest underlines the UK Government’s confidence in the progress and maturity of the programme, which is set to deliver the military, industrial and economic requirements of the national combat air strategy. The programme is being delivered by Team Tempest – combining the expertise of the UK MOD, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce. Working with international partners, the team is leading progress towards a UK-led internationally collaborative Future Combat Air System which will ensure the Royal Air Force and its allies retain world-leading, independent military capability. The concept and assessment phase contract will see the partners develop a range of digital concepts, embedding new tools and techniques to design, evaluate and shape the final design and capability requirements of Tempest.”
Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence, said:
“Today marks a momentous step in the next phase of our Future Combat Air System, with a multi-million pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our UK industry experts. Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”
Chris Boardman, Group Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Air Sector, added:
“Working with our industry partners and the Ministry of Defence, we are on track to deliver an ambitious programme for the UK, which will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defence capability, capable of countering future threats and safeguarding our national security and defence. The funding announced today marks a critical next step for the programme 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. Tempest offers an exciting opportunity for the next generation of talent to develop rewarding careers, contributing to important work in support of the defence of our nation. The coming years represent one of the most exciting periods in the history of our industry and, as a team, we have a chance to be part of something genuinely historic, transforming the way we develop and deliver.”
Recently however we reported that the Tempest project has been given an “amber/red” rating by the Infrastructure Project Authority, warning more funding is required or their could be a delay in the aircraft entering service.
According to the 2021 Annual Report on the Government Major Projects Portfolio from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which can be found here, Tempest is categorised with a level of risk.
Through the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy the Future Combat Air System received investment for the first 4-years to complete the Concept and Assessment Phase. A phase that will complete an Alternative System Review of the Future Combat Air System including the Core Platform, as well as establishing the international partnerships.
The level of investment was significantly less than required, however it preserves the feasibility of the programme within current parameters, but adds significant overall programme risk, particularly to the assumed date for Initial Operating Capability. The Concept and Assessment Phase will provide the evidence for Programme viability including level of additional investment and/or other options for the provision of Combat Air. Investments and milestones beyond this phase are subject to a margin of error in terms of time, cost and performance that will be refined prior to the next decision gate.”
What does ‘Amber/Red’ mean?
The IPA describe this rating in the following way:
“Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible.”
What is Tempest?
Tempest is the RAF’s next generation combat aircraft, coming into service from 2035 to replace the Typhoon.
The report goes a bit more in-depth than I just have.:
“Future Combat Air will play a vital role in the United Kingdom’s military strategic capabilities for decades to come, enabling us to defend the United Kingdom, our allies, and make a decisive contribution to global security. The Future Combat Air Systems Programme will design and deliver innovative systems of highly networked crewed and uncrewed air vehicles, sensors and effectors to be able to operate in a range of complex and evolving threat environments and preserve operational advantage for future decades.”