Today at DSEI, leading UK defence companies (BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls Royce and MBDA UK), together with key Italian Industry players (Leonardo Italy, Elettronica, Avio Aero and MBDA Italy) announced their intent to partner on the Tempest programme by signing a Statement of Intent.

This will see the parties work together to define an innovative concept and partnership model which will include knowledge sharing, product definition and technology development for the joint development of future combat air systems.

According to BAE, Rhe signing of the SOI follows a commitment by the UK and Italian governments to work closely together on Combat Air capabilities, including on systems such as Typhoon and F-35, as well as on Tempest, the UK-initiated next-generation combat air system.

The Statement of Intent outlined a number of commitments from both countries:

  • Closer Government alignment on future Eurofighter Typhoon enhancements;
  • Deepening discussions on Tempest military requirements;
  • Developing a combat air roadmap, identifying opportunities to integrate advanced technologies from Eurofighter Typhoon into Tempest;
  • Developing an innovative, agile and co-operative industrial framework to deliver Tempest;
  • Launching pilot studies to demonstrate new, collaborative ways of working;
Copyright BAE Systems.

“Both governments confirmed a common desire to maintain strong industrial bases in order to access key capabilities and secure prosperity for both nations. Italy and the UK have a long and successful history working together on international programmes such as Tornado, Typhoon and F-35.

Leading up to the SOI signing, UK and Italian Industry worked together on an initial study to assess the feasibility of a common approach to future Combat Air systems. Many areas of potential collaboration were identified, including where shared industrial enterprises such as Leonardo and MBDA already see close integration between the two nations.”

Charles Woodburn, Group Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems said:

“Our proven record of successful collaboration with Italian industry makes us certain that this partnership between our two nations is a strong fit for Tempest and demonstrates the growing momentum behind this important international endeavour.

Today’s announcement will expand existing partnerships with MBDA and Leonardo, which are central to our work in unleashing the full potential of Typhoon, as together we develop future combat air technologies to the benefit of both nations.”

Alessandro Profumo Chief Executive Officer, Leonardo, said:

“Today’s agreement is an essential next step for this exciting and strategically important programme. As the CEO of Leonardo, I’m confident in this collaboration as each day I see how UK and Italian engineers, working together, achieve incredible things.

Our two nations have a long and shared history of success on international programmes and we believe that working together on Tempest will further strengthen each nation’s technological, industrial and skills base to ensure prosperity for decades to come.”

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Martin
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Martin

Seems like a no brainier for the current Italian government but one wonders what will happen in future. The UK may have a great opportunity with tempest to build the last and possibly only 6th gen manned western fighter with tempest or it might end up being the swordfish/albacore of the 21st century. The USA is rapidly dropping the idea of a manned fighter from is 6th gen requirement and I would be surprised if much ever comes out of the Franco German program.

Cam
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Cam

Tempest can also be unmanned.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Maybe Tempast tranche 1 will be semi-manned, tranche 2 Unmanned!
A best de-risked option.

Callum
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Callum

I’d be surprised if the US gives up development of a manned 6th gen fighter, a lot of sway is still given to tradition and popularity over pure military benefit. Remember, part of the reason the F-35 beat the F-32 is because it looked better. As for the the Franco-German team, I’d say it’s potentially more secure likely than Tempest. France isn’t buying a 5th gen platform, their current plan is buy more 4.5 gen Rafales until their gen 6 aircraft is ready in the 2030s. Their ability to fight a peer war past 2035 is entirely dependent on this… Read more »

Martin
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Martin

After the pain of developing F35 and F22 I would not be surprised if the US does not bother with a manned fighter, they have less need than the likes of France as they have gen 5 aircraft and the US is still making and buying gen 4 aircraft from the 70’s.

The USA is much more likely to opt for an F35 /EF B21 combo combined with a system of system approach incorporating UCAVS than go for a direct F22 style Gen 6 aircraft.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/29690/b-21s-with-air-to-air-capabilities-drones-not-6th-gen-fighters-to-dominate-future-air-combat

maurice10
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maurice10

I’d guess in the medium term manned will be the preferred option however, if a purely autonomous plane could be designed from the outset, a huge chunk of development would be cut from the programme. Other factors such as G-Forces would not hinder the development of the planes operating envelope, other than the electronics being able to withstand them. Currently, the World is waking up to driverless vehicles and large military drones, and this trend will only expand going forward. However, it will take a brave decision to fully Automate a 6th generation aircraft.

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

Agree with you entirely other than your optimism over self driving cars. We are a long long way from that future whatever the signs that they are superficially capable of doing what is necessary. It’s the complexities of all the interactions they will need to deal with on a large scale especially in major cities like London that will involve the true test and that’s no where near being achieved or a timescale for doing so yet remotely possible. In some ways a pilotless fighter would be easier technically if not ethically perhaps but both are similar in having achieved… Read more »

maurice10
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maurice10

Interestingly, I drive a semi-autonomous car and once you accept the vehicle has your best interests at heart, it is the nearest thing to being chauffeured. In the near future, the ability to fight may be heavily dependant on your autonomous capabilities! The concept of drone swarms is terrifying and will be exploited to the max by many countries as the basic technology is not that prohibitive. I’m convinced a number of F35’s will be converted to unmanned configuration before they are replaced. Unfortunately, a chunk of that plane was designed to accommodate a human and their shortfalls? Maybe the… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

We already have drone swarms on the M25

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

The US will study and develop the basis for production of a 6th Gen fighter, simply because it will be a decade before any serious decision in regards to any balance between manned/unmanned capabilities can truly be known. Anything else is pure speculation at this juncture. Therefor any decision on a purely unmanned future is years away for the Americans and until then they simply daren’t risk falling behind potential adversaries in terms of enabling technology and design, even if they presently consider unmanned to be the likely ‘winner’ in the expected post F35 timescale. Even then political and technology… Read more »

Atomic
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Atomic

Actually the F32 was going to be a very pretty bird & has a similar layout to the Tempest

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/20971/this-is-what-a-boeing-f-32-wouldve-looked-like-if-lockheed-lost-the-jsf-competition

Spyinthesky
Guest
Spyinthesky

Long way to go to determine Germany’s support for it which is crucial to making it financially viable and/or truly advanced.

BB85
Guest
BB85

There will always be a requirement for a manned fighter in some shape or form. For strike Missions a uav can be pre programmed on a set course with minimal guidance from a distance but there is no way air superiority could be completed by a uav. There is far to much of a time delay between identifying targets, manoeuvring and making decisions to engage and destroy that said target.

Sean
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Sean

Not with an AI onboard and being able to take such decisions.
But politically, allowing an AI to decide which humans to target in a battle space, will be extremely difficult to sell. Initially at least…

Ian
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Ian

Sounds like the best way to transfer Typhoon technology over to tempest.

Andy
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Andy

While getting lots of upgraded Typhoons with 6th gen systems.

David
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David

Are unmanned fighters a real prospect ? Surely lag would be a major draw back, would an unmanned fighter not be very exposed to anti satellite missiles ?

Kill the communication satellite and you have basically killed the aircraft.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Sat-comms would need protecting somehow, by SpaceCom, or Space Force?

Ian
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Ian

It could be argued that in a modern non-nuclear war, we may have to, in some part, go back to the mechanical roots of warfare.

Callum
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Callum

There’s definitely a lot of support for that theory. There’s already a lot of doubt about the ability of things like helicopters and transport aircrafts’ ability to operate in a modern contested airspace. There’s also the potential for drones to be jammed. Obviously not really an issue in non-peer warfare, but against a technologically sophisticated opponent? You can guarantee there’s going to be a lot of effort expended to deny you the use of drones. That leaves you in a very 1940s esque scenario: tanks and mechanised infantry supported by strikes by manned stealth aircraft, land-based artillery and/or naval cruise… Read more »

Martin
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Martin

Unmanned fighter might be the wrong idea, thousand drones in a swarm controlled by AI might be what they are looking at.

Ian
Guest
Ian

AI gone wrong doesn’t bear thinking about…

Lee1
Guest
Lee1

Lets face it they are less likely to go wrong than humans…

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Don’t bet on it, To get a truly useful autonomous aircraft that can make a reasonable and quick decision ( to kill or not kill etc) it’s going to need far more powerful heuristic AI than we have now, and even if computer science can develop the system needed (probably) would a sane government actual arm it and give it the ability to decide the fundamental question of kill or not ? It could all go very wrong very quickly ( the moment an AI blows up a passenger liner in error). also this whole area is quit frankly iffy,… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

Banks of remotely controlled genetically modified pilots with enlarged super brains plugged into Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computers. 9000 of them.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

It won’t be long.

Trevor Holcroft
Guest
Trevor Holcroft

Hmm… I am not particularly trying to contradict you. Indeed it might not matter since its quite possible that we might end up having a chip implanted in our heads at birth – all the better to learn how to ermm, improve ourselves.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Lol improvement through cybernetic and biotech enhancement…..to think I once thought a ZX spectrum was practically science fiction.

Trevor
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Trevor

Skynet

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I’m pretty sure Alexa is actually skynet.

Daniel
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Daniel

I think a lot of the theories revolve around unmanned aircraft being controlled by and flying in formation with a manned “mothership” aircraft to avoid exactly that issue. The much smaller distances involved would eliminate lag and a lot of the basic flight operations of the aircraft including defensive manoeuvres would be handled autonomously by AI, with human input presumably required for target designation and weapon deployment.

Lee1
Guest
Lee1

It depends. If it is autonomous then if comms go down then it will still be able to carry out its mission. I mean if it was as easy as taking out a satellite then cruise missiles would be useless.

Nath
Guest
Nath

What if you don’t need SATCOMS? A chain of high altitude, long endurance aircraft would do the job nicely. Replaceable, highly adaptable and on demand.

Now, where could we get a “constellation” of these from?

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/collaboration-between-bae-and-prismatic-delivers-two-unmanned-aircraft-prototypes

Simon
Guest
Simon

Kill the communication satellite and you have basically killed the entire air-force!

The only way forward is for these unmanned aircraft to use AI either just to get home or to continue on their mission using a pre-programmed ROE.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Simon see my comment above on why this may be a very bad idea.

Sean
Guest
Sean

Not if the aircraft has AI to allow it to both flight and fight without human supervision/control.
Controversial but inevitable.

BB85
Guest
BB85

I still think we are a long way off having AI that powerful. It currently works well for buying/selling stocks and shares, playing chess, taking off from point A and landing at point B. But making real time decisions in air to air combat or when providing close air support would be a disaster.

Sean
Guest
Sean

As someone who works for a company working on cutting edge AI, I would have to say it’s far more advanced than that. I would say between 10 and 15 years depending upon how squeamish a nation is about civilian casualties – and we know Russia and China have no problems killing their own citizens.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Russia is currently killing of its own citizens at a rate of knots… especially its men. The best weapon we have against them is to drop crates of vodka and untipped packets of Gauloise by stealth balloons.

The poor Chinese are becoming consumers(!) for heaven’s sake! They are doomed!

Expat
Guest
Expat

Taranis concept is an autonomous system can fly with out as pilot and id targets, it has a man in the loop for the final attack decision but you can bet if satellites, we’d be in a major conflict and all bets are off, the system would be allow to go fully autonomous.

BB85
Guest
BB85

Is this actually the baseline design now for tempest or still very much an artists impression. I didn’t pay much attention to it before as it looked like a cartoon fighter but if it’s sticking around over a year later maybe it is a serious design.

Peter Crisp
Guest
Peter Crisp

I imagine it’s just a basic design they can show the politicians and others who have to agree funding. I doubt the actual design work has even started yet and won’t be finalised until the middle of the next decade with all the work now just being the decisions on what technologies they think they’ll be able to realistically afford to develop over that time.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

In terms of its shape, is there much different to do in terms of aerodynamics and stealth? The engines might affect its configeration?? Isn’t it all in the computers? And isn’t Tempest basically an improved, non VTOL, F35? Is 6Gen a bit of smoke and mirrors? And when it flies will it not be empty of anything for years as it develops it’s systems. And as soon as a computer
system is developed… it will be outdated (?)

T.S
Guest

For all questioning how ucavs will operate and the incredible potential they have take a read of this link. It’s quite long but very interesting and informative. It also highlights how America was already doing the stuff we are only just coming round to over 10 years ago.
https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/3889/the-alarming-case-of-the-usafs-mysteriously-missing-unmanned-combat-air-vehicles

Barry Larking
Guest
Barry Larking

“It also highlights how America was already doing the stuff we are only just coming round to over 10 years ago.’

That we know. As an American said ironically ‘America doesn’t do secrecy’.

I think progress on Tempest planning thus far is going well. The response to the Franco-German announcement of their own 6th generation fighter plans to the ‘little’ countries of Europe has been very well timed. Now the Swedes are on board.

Russjm
Guest
Russjm

This Italian government does, tomorrow afternoon’s Italian government might not, I am assured Monday morning’s Italian government is favourable.

Expat
Guest
Expat

Good step forward but still need one more large partner to make this a reality. The program would need 500+ orders imo.

DJ
Guest
DJ

Japan?