Japan will now work with the United States instead of Britain to develop a new fighter jet, according to local media.
Sankei News reports that Japan has decided to create a working group of local and U.S. aerospace companies for the development of the successor to the Japanese F-2 fighter, meaning that Japan will not participate in the Tempest project.
The report added that Britain lost the race for the joint development programme as it “wants to have the lead and Japan is unwilling to participate in joint development with other countries in the Tempest program”.
Last month, the firms involved in the Tempest programme (BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo’s UK arm and MBDA) increased the number of people working on the project from 1,000 to 2,500.
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.
It is understood that the fighter is being developed jointly by the UK, Italy and Sweden.