The latest UK technology has been revealed for the Tempest combat aircraft due in service by 2035.

British engineers have revealed some of the latest concepts under development for the Royal Air Force’s next generation combat aircraft.

Image via BAE.

The tech is being delivered by Team Tempest, a UK technology and defence partnership formed by BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA, Rolls-Royce and the RAF, and involving hundreds of high-tech companies, SMEs and academia across the UK.

“Tempest is one of the UK’s most ambitious technological endeavours and designed to deliver a highly advanced, adaptable combat air system to come into service from the mid-2030s. This next generation combat aircraft, which forms part of a wider combat air system, will exploit new technologies as they evolve to respond to the changing nature of the battlespace, addressing increasingly high-tech and complex threats and conflict.”

Among the key insights released today:

  • Experts from the Team Tempest electronics lead, Leonardo UK, are developing new radar technology capable of providing over 10,000 times more data than existing systems. The new sensor, called the ‘Multi-Function Radio Frequency System’, will collect and process unprecedented amounts of data on the battlespace – equivalent to the internet traffic of a large city such as Edinburgh, every second. This huge volume of information, processed on-board, will give Tempest a battle winning edge in combat situations, with the ability to locate and target enemies well before they are targeted themselves. The brand new sensor will provide a wide range of abilities beyond traditional radar, with all-digital technology providing the operator with an exceptionally clear view of the battlespace and of potential targets. Leonardo has already built complete sub-systems using the new technology and successfully tested them at the Company’s site in Edinburgh with a path to airborne demonstrations in the coming years.
  • Separately, engineers at BAE Systems have begun flight testing cutting-edge concepts for Tempest’s ‘wearable cockpit’ technologies, designed to provide pilots in the cockpit or operators on the ground with split-second advantage. The concept sees the physical controls seen in current aircraft cockpits replaced with Augmented and Virtual Reality displays projected directly inside the visor of a helmet, which can be instantly configured to suit any mission. Concepts including human-autonomy teaming are also being developed, where a ‘virtual co-pilot’ could take on some of the pilot’s responsibilities. The virtual co-pilot concept is still being developed, but could for example, take the form of an ‘avatar’ built into the cockpit to interact with the pilot. BAE Systems has also been trialing ‘psycho-physiological’ technologies, including eye-tracking, to study the operator’s physical and cognitive processes to better understand increasing exertion, stress, workload and fatigue. BAE Systems test pilots are now trialling these psycho-physiological technologies in controlled test flight conditions in a Typhoon aircraft. The results of the trials will inform further development to better understand a pilot’s cognitive behaviour and processes relating to brain activity, psychological rhythms and eye movement to inform further development.
  • MBDA UK has also embedded one of its Human Factors engineers within this wearable cockpit team, ensuring early introduction of weapons concepts that exploit these future technologies. This close partnership approach between MBDA UK and BAE Systems will allow the companies to help to collaborate at an early stage of the programme, shaping how weapons systems information and operation is optimised for the pilot.
  • At the same time, Rolls-Royce engineers have been developing advanced combustion system technology as part of the company’s power and propulsion work. The combustion system is where fuel is introduced and burned to release energy into the gas stream. A next-generation system will need to be hotter than any previous platform, increasing the efficiency of the engine and meaning it can go further, faster, or produce less carbon dioxide. Rolls-Royce has been exploring advanced composite materials and additive manufacturing as part of this work, producing lightweight, more power-dense components capable of operating at these higher temperatures.

These concepts are part of a wider research effort to develop technologies that could be used to create a next generation combat air system for the UK. Collectively, the Team Tempest partners are developing more than 60 technology demonstrations in the fields of sensing, data management and autonomy to prove world-leading processes and technologies on the programme.

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Iain Bancroft, Director of Major Air Programmes at Leonardo in the UK, said:

“The collaborative relationship between Team Tempest and our network of academic and SME partners enables us to bring together the ‘best of the best’ engineering talent from across the UK. Crucially, we are embracing new ways of working as an integrated team to dramatically improve efficiency and pace – sharing intelligence and refining our concepts digitally to deliver innovations that will shape the next generation combat air system. Our new radar technology is a concrete example of the gains this approach has already brought, costing 25% less to develop while providing over 10,000 times more data than existing systems.”

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Gunbuster

On a list of what a pilot wants a plane to do… Having a low CO2 footprint is probably number 2000 out of 100 things he would like.

lee1

It is not a bad thing to go for though, as long as it does not lead to compromises that handicap the aircrafts abilities.

Joe16

They’re also waiting to hear back from MB about whether the new ejection seats are made from a low environmental impact plant-based fabric too…

lee1

This just seems more and more like a marketing exercise than an actual Military project… I have never seen so much information being shared about what (if it is really a proper project) should be highly classified.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Got to keep things prominent otherwise the treasury will be round to cut the project. How else will we save the money we need to spend on HRT for kids

lee1

that may be the case and if it is it is ludicrous. The Treasury are run by the Government and the MOD is run by the Government. Compromising national security to keep the project funded seems madness when the same person is in charge of both!!

Rudeboy1

What on earth do you think should be classified there?

lee1

The whole idea of telling everyone which technologies are being included is ludicrous. Normally you don’t want to give your potential enemies any prior knowledge of technology you are developing as even small details can give them a whole heap of understanding about what they need to develop to counter you. It is stupid. This sort of project should be shrouded in secrecy in order to give it maximum impact on delivery. I mean BAe even gave a detailed look at how they were developing the models of the aircraft for wind tunnel testing and actually show many of the… Read more »

spyintheskyuk

I would have thought its all so general that no ‘enemy’ is going to find anything about that remotely surprising and certainly won’t make them suddenly change their plans of decide to up their cyber activity beyond the high levels that they will already be focusing upon it. The only possible advantage might be in not even admitting a project exists at all though considering the problems of getting this over the line of prototyping, let alone series production is so great that the PR aspect is probably crucial to its momentum and the necessity to attract other collaborators from… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by spyintheskyuk
4th watch

They do the same with ship technology, showing detailed computer generated structure, equipment and build process. This is madness and should likewise be secret. I dont think other nations give away so much for free.
Usually though its our friends who steal our ideas.

Joe16

I wouldn’t be too worried about it- none of the above is new information and a lot of it could be inferred one way or another anyway. None of the above tells anyone more than people already knew.

David

Agreed Joe. The published information doesn’t say HOW the technology works just what concepts are being considered. A good example is the Chinese stealth aircraft that are now entering production. They sure look like a F-22 or F-35 but by all accounts, the required avionics needed to make them a F-22 or F-35 is something the Chinese simply don’t have.

Watcherzero

It has adopted a different approach to project management than usual. Usually its top down approach: We need X capability then commission companies to create a solution involving lots of development to meet a usually arbitrary capability requirement, e.g. ‘The pilot needs to be able to have a heads up prompt to run a cursory diagnostic on x system after 25 minutes of flight to check its not overheating’ With this the project is ground up: They are gather all the existing semi-mature advanced technologies they can and fill then filter them into the design. The result should be that… Read more »

Ian M.

Thunderbirds are GO!

Daniele Mandelli

I know it is good to get things in the public eye vs the enemy that is HMG, but I hope there are other proper advances being made by DSTL/BAE that are not being broadcast to the Chinese on a platter…

rfn_weston

My gut tells me this is a sales pitch to widen the eyes of the Americans.

It could well be an attempt to gain more involvement than we have in the F35 – Maybe a European production line, in what would be F35 2.0?

I hope I’m wrong but financially I think we’ll struggle to kick this off with just the Italians and the Swedes.

Steve R

I think we should be looking to Austra, Canada, maybe even India.

BB85

The Chinese and Russians love a bit of propoganda the main difference is they release theirs when it’s actually built and operational while the UK releases there’s 10 years early when it’s still a concept study ?

Joe16

Hi Daniele, I wouldn’t worry about it too much- there is more blurb than substance I think. As an example, this Leonardo claim about gathering “10,000 times more data than existing systems,” equivalent to the internet traffic of “a large city”. Is that 10,000 times more data than systems built by Leonardo, or other systems out there like the AN/APG-81 in the F-35? It makes a difference what you’re comparing it to. Also, the large city they’re talking about is Edinburgh- no offence to Edinburgh but I believe that’s actually a relatively small city in the grand scheme of things.… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I hope you’re right Joe.

Sometimes we Brits do actually seem that daft with some of the stuff we read.

T.S

Still the same three tech developments being advertised, nothing new here. All the graphics show no control surfaces – magma tech not being explored as well? What about the collaboration with reaction engine’s? Could that be bringing significant speed increases? What about the early talk of laser weapons? Hopefully there is a whole heap of other tech advancements being looked at as well.

spyintheskyuk

Yes and when you think about it that is precisely the sort of stuff that they would not want to reveal too much about. Talk about generalisations that are, as Joe says, probably similar to other developments around the world and let that shield the serious stuff.

Last edited 5 months ago by spyintheskyuk
John Clark

With regards to speed, I don’t think we will see the aircraft go over Mach 2.2.

Pushing past this point, will rise the airframe costs through the roof.

I think smallest size possible engine giving 25,000 + pounds thrust, good high and low level performance, excellent throttle response, sustainable high Mach super cruise and long range, should be the main propulsion goals.

Advances trailblazed by Reaction Engines, coupled with RR knowhow, can meld the traditional qualities of Turbofan and Turbojet engines together in a world beating power plant…..

‘If’ the money is there to do it??

Ian

We can’t afford 130+ F35’s ……where is the money coming from for these….our budget dose not run to a British only Aircraft……

lee1

Also there will be barely any overseas sales of this as the US will subsidise sales of their competitor in order secure the orders. We will not be able to afford to do that which will in turn make the ones we purchase a lot more expensive than they could be. I would love to see this thing fly and enter service and I would love it to be world beating as I do think we have the knowledge and ability to do it. However we do not have the money and this will only get worse if we get… Read more »

The Big Man

The PLAAF have just placed an order for one complete aircraft complete with manuals, but have stated no requirement for spares.

Steve R

But we aren’t doing this alone; Sweden and Italy are joining us and we may yet get more partners for Tempest. I think we should be looking to Australia and Canada as partners too.

And then also look at export customers. We’ve exported Typhoons to Saudi, Bahrain and the UAE, they’d be high on the list of potential customers.

lee1

These countries are only signed up for the initial design phase so far. They could easily drop out later on or simply reduce funding and not buy any jets. We have exported to Saudi etc but that doubt they will be in the market for Tempest.

Paul Bestwick

And here is me thinking that the Harrier was a working aircraft before th US got involved. I must have been mistaken.

lee1

Yes you are. The Pegasus engine was funded by the US. Then we sent a few Kestrels to Nasa who then did further work on the design which then led to the Harrier. Then after the first set of AV8-a aircraft that the US bought they redesigned it (AV8-b) and gave the designs to us to make the new Harriers. The Harrier would not exist without US investment.

spyintheskyuk

Now they are claiming to be flying a Gen 6ish aircraft already but with no further info I note. It will be interesting to see if this is more of Trumps BS like claiming he has created weapons that the Chinese/Russians are so envious of when we know that they are well ahead presently on hypersonic missiles which seem to be the weapon project of choice presently, but such an aircrafts existence or otherwise or what stage its at, will no doubt be a key factor in what happens with Tempest directly or indirectly be its chances of collaboration from… Read more »

David

Exactly Ian. One rumour for the upcoming Security Review next month is that we will order only 70 F-35s and the remaining money that would have been spent on the additional 68 would be diverted to help fund Tempest. This in my opinion, is simply a back-door cut as we all know the 68 aircraft spend will never see Tempest.

spyintheskyuk

I tend to agree though I suspect that its the only way Tempest will get funding to keep it going even as a paper aircraft. If we could have faith in the logic of it, it might even be a good decision (again on paper) as I really am not convinced about the F35 beyond the next decade so being a little circumspect might be sensible.

Daniele Mandelli

I agree re Tempest. But purely concerning F35 I’d bite your hand off for 70. We don’t need 138, that figure was never going to happen. 70 plus 100 plus Typhoon plus UAV like LANCA is pretty good, considering. I posted on Tempest the other day, that trick of funding big future projects at the expense of kit now is an old, old trick. Years down the line Tempest itself will be either shelved or massively reduced. We shall see. I’d still be satisfied with 70 F35, as long as they are all B. A split buy at only 70… Read more »

David

Thank you as always Daniele and I think you are right. The only thing I would say on the 138 F-35 number is that it was supposed to be over the life of the program. I assume this would be to cover attrition or old, worn out airframes over time.

I agree with you wholeheartedly via-a-viz the 70 F-35s -if that’s what we get- being all B’s. A split buy would be folly.

Paul T

Agree,it has all the signs of another ‘Jam Tomorow ‘ scenario.Thinking out loud it could present some opportunities – if 70 F35b are enough for the Carriers and lets say the remaining 68 are deferred to provide funding for Tempest,might the case for a modest buy of Typhoon to keep Warton going be a good insurance policy ?.Or could a ( relatively ) cheap New Advanced Jet Trainer be introduced to replace the Legacy T1 Hawks which could also be used in Low Intensity Combat Roles,freeing up the T2’s for the Red Arrows ? .

Mark

And with our defence budget we’ll be able to afford exactly none of these things.

David

…. yeah, and it will be years late!

Simon m

Pity we can’t seem to get 1/10th of this program effort in the land Domain. I keep hearing the only way we can build the next tank is to join the French & Germans project. Considering France’s record which means generally staying in until they gain the knowledge they don’t have, then leave & then build their own. I am not enthusiastic! Can some of this not spin off in to other domains? Now with RBSL + LMUK + GD can we not build the next “tank” on our own and if not who should we partner with Sweden? Spain?,… Read more »

Paul T

Short of a Large Export Order for a new design UK MBT its not going to happen.The British Army cannot hope to procure enough examples on its own to make it viable,and Two of the Countries you list produce their own MBT’s so they wont be in the Market for any, plus you would also have to compete with them in the Export Market too.A modification of an existing Design (ala Ajax ) might work but again numbers would be too small.

Masterblaster

They’re not going to be able to afford this aircraft in anything like significant numbers, and in low numbers it would be massively cost prohibitive (It’d probably be cost prohibitive in larger numbers too given the MOD’s budget!).

dan

They really making some grandiose claims. Will believe it when I see it.