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

The technology 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.

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.

Team Tempest say:

“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.”

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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BB85

Crazy how powerful the radars are becoming and the amount of data they will be able to process. I wonder if the tail on the tempest suggests there will be a rear facing radar as well. I think the SU 57 has side facing radar as well which effectively gave it 360 degree coverage at all times, although they might have been a decoration

AJP1960

Yes, the “cheek” radar helps then track enemy aircraft either whilst maneuvering or when trying to avoid radar tracking by flying a “doppler” avoidance pattern (i.e. flying “around” a radar emitter, not moving closer or farther way, meaning that there’s no distance shift, which is how modern doppler radars make their detections and discriminations

DaveyB

Yes, pulse doppler is one type of waveform technique used. Also have a look at frequency modulated interrupted carrier wave (FMICW) and pulse compression waveform techniques. These are newer types of waveform that mitigate the issues of targets turning through 90 degrees to your radar and thus disappearing due to doppler filtering. A modern radar such as the APG-81 will use all these types of waveform. But it won’t just concentrate on one type, it will use all and intertwine them together. This means it will have a much better resolution of the target, as multiple types of waveform will… Read more »

TrevorH

“a wider air combat system”

Any ideas??

Jack

I suspect tat refers to the loyal wingman concept

Jack

*that

Mark B

I would imagine it means picking up information from other aircraft, ships, satellites, ground stations anything that is available and bringing it together to give the big picture.

Joe16

As noted before, loyal wingmen, and probably swarmed drones / loitering munitions of some kind (maybe based upon the Spear 3, seeing as they’ve already come up with an EW version). “Legacy” F-35Bs and Typhoons round it out.
Then you’ve got the E-7s hanging out further back, providing AEW and to a certian extent directing stuff?

Watcherzero

In the Times writeup today it says theyve been told one Tempest and its accompanying drone fleet will be the combat equivalent of a squadron of Typhoons and Fighter squadrons may be replaced on a one Manned Tempest to one traditional squadron ratio.

TrevorH

This would suggest very few to be built (?) and quite a cost per unit allowing for development costs. And very few pilots. But more computer programmers. Of course you then have to consider the numbers and costs of these drones. How expensive are they and/or how expendable? Would the Tempest be 2 man? With a weapons/drone manager?
Could a version of the F35B be developed to use the radars and computers??

ChariotRider

Hi, Switching from a single seater to two seater is a very expensive and not a straight forward proposition. They would need to make that decision very soon or face huge cost and time overruns. Adding an extra pilot requires doubling the life support system, including the ejection seat, a bigger ‘hole’ in the aircraft structure, a big change in centre of gravity poistion, which increases weight requiring a bigger wing, bigger engine… blah blah blah – you get the picture. This assumes you want the same operational capabilities. OK I know the US did it with the F15 Strike… Read more »

TrevorH

Thank you. However could it not be that the plane is designed at the outset for 2 men? But i am not suggesting you are wrong!

ChariotRider

Hi Trevor, Simple answer to your question is yes. However, two seaters are bigger, and hence more expensive to develop and operate. So if cost is an issue then a single seater is the way to go. Also, given the US experiment with the AI controlled F16 I would say that Team Tempest has an eye on future developments. The Tempest is supposed to be ‘optionally autonomous’ itself, so I wonder whether the Fighter Controller / Pilot will spend quite a bit of there time on an Airbus* 200 miles from the combat zone? In which case you’d have no… Read more »

TrevorH

Thank you again. All interesting. I cant help but think all this computer business is going to be too complicated for all sides. But at the core one hopes to be a good platform… and we can be leaders in it!

ChariotRider

You are absolutely right it is possible to get way too ambitious. To sum it up with a bit of weekend humour:

6 Phases of a Project

  1. Enthusiasm (All)
  2. Disillusionment (Engineers)
  3. Blind Panic (Financial Controllers)
  4. Scape Goats (Contractors)
  5. Punish the Inocent (Anyone but me!)
  6. Praise for those not Involved (Politicians [Newly Elected, of course])

Cheers CR

TrevorH

Ha ha…

Adrian

I hope it’s not too cost prohibitive.
It seems the choices are to purchase a small number of extremely capable aircraft, and be too shy to risk using & loosing them. Or to purchase a large number of moderately (perhaps autonomous) capable aircraft.

Either way, hopefully the tempest is augmented with loyal wingman systems.

Pompeyblokeinoxford

Good point. The TSR2 was a bit too complex to succeed and look what happened to that.

John Clark

It’s a very good point .. Tempest is supposed to build in affordability from the start, perhaps the use of 3d printing and other advanced technology might make this previously elusive goal a possibility? The real cost will come in the extensive coding required to bring all these technologies together and finally have them wrapped in an airframe, at the bottom of Wartons runway, ready to take flight. It has to be built in ‘significant’ numbers to make it possible, that will mean an RAF buy of 200, with at least 200 more exported and be partnered with a sophisticated… Read more »

Pacman27

I think the UK has or has access to most of the components, code and design already as a tier 1 partner for F35 and Typhoon and major contributor to Gripen, I think we are well placed from a parts perspective. Perhaps we can talk the US into going down the tempest route instead of restarting the Raptor product line, better still if we can get all the F22 tooling and moulds and get the US onboard. I think realistically if the UK could join forces with the US and be the ROW manufacturing site whilst giving the US something… Read more »

pkcasimir

The US looked into restarting the F-22 production line three years ago and decided that it would be prohibitively expensive and would take too long. The US is working on its own sixth generation fighter and decided that under no circumstances would it again use the F-35 model with foreign partners. It will be an exclusively US development. Most probably it will be a restricted access program like the B-21 because of US fears of Chinese espionage. And, no, the UK does not have access to the computer code for the F-35 and the US will not give it. Forget… Read more »

Dalecn

The UK does have access it was given special access a while back

ChariotRider

Yeh, we do have acces indeed there was a nice comment (reported on here I think?) where a US engineer said that you could spot UK contributions to the software!?

Cheers CR

pkcasimir

No you do not.

Lordtemplar

UK does not have access to F35 source code. Israel is the only foreign country that does. Furthermore, there is a dispute betwen Pentagon and LM about who actually owns the code. One of the reasons both Navy and USAF are currently developing the FA-XX and NGAD which they want ready by 2030.

The Big Man

I can’t help being drawn into the development time of the F35. This evolved from a number of combat aircraft development programmes to form the JSF programme with its roots back in the late 1980’s. It first flew in 2006 and was introduced into the USMC in 2015. Even today it has a number of fairy significant issues that need resolving and our slow rate of buy should hopefully see us with the best and most capable air frames. So far nearly 600 have been built and who can find an accurate programme cost? Over $400 billion? My point is,… Read more »

Glass Half Full

I’d suggest both the US and the UK have learned a lot about how not to do aircraft development and production programs in future. The US from the F-35 and the UK from both the F-35 and Typhoon. The US NGAD program and the UK’s Tempest program are both focused on a much more rapid development cycle. The key for an affordable program, as outlined at the public launch in 2018 for the Tempest program, is not to try and build the best possible aircraft, but to determine what is important and what is not for the planned tasks, especially… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi, Just to pick up on the missile threat issue – it’s not just missiles. As I have just posted above (after your post) a recent US trial pitched an AI controlled F16 against manned F16’s and won, reportedly – everytime! With regards to an affordable programme I would entirely agree with determining what needed up front although I would add in the potential for capability insertions later, but for me it is how you manage the programme. The biggest driver of cost and time overruns is changes in requirements. I read recently that the Type 31 Frigate programme contract… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Agreed CR, program management is critical, as is consistent funding and political will. Typhoon clearly suffered from lack of the last two which drove up costs and drove down numbers. I also agree that it will probably need the discipline against changes. However, I am hopeful that designing the aircraft from the outset to enable efficient software and hardware (including new weapon additions) updates may also mitigate this. The US are also evaluating much more rapid aircraft development, more often, with shorter service lives to move the total aircraft cost more to R&D and build and less to maintenance and… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Glass Half Full, Yeh, political will definately comes into it. It is one of the reasons that multi national project eventually finish, because there is usually one or more nations determined to move forward even if they change their minds another partner has decided to hold the line… As for rapid development processes, love the idea, although I am not convinced that applying it to systems, engines and airframes at the same cycle rate is entirely sensible. A 40 year life for combat aircraft happened to work for the last few decades mainly due to the fall of the… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Good thoughts. The US seem to be currently talking shorter airframe lifetimes/design cycles but with a lot of capability moving to what is in and on the aircraft, your numbers work better IMO.

Glass Half Full

I could see the RAF wanting to get to at least 250 over production lifetime, with Italy at 100, so 350 just with the two main partner countries. Sweden might decide it makes sense for them too, but it seems more likely that they will contribute to and leverage other technologies from the program for their own air frame, still defraying Tempest R&D expenses though. Italy’s number is approximately a 1-for-1 with Typhoon, so seems modest and achievable, particularly if costs are managed as is necessary. The RAF’s number is significantly up on the 160 Typhoons, but the RAF are… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Glass Half Full, Nice post. However, taking conventional platform numbers as a basis for analysis will probably need to be developed to take into account the contribution that the loyal wing concept (if it happens) will have. The Loyal Wingman has variously been described as decoy drones to dogfighting AI drones, presumably carrying their own weapons. So I would suggest that the platform for platform replacement of traditional capability replacement programmes is only one of possibly four options Tempest offers. The other three being Tempest plus, decoys only drones, weapon carrying only drones or a mix. If loyal wingman… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Agree CR, that the options for what the Tempest program will deliver are intriguing. The requirements for Loyal Wingman (LW) also make a significant difference. For example do we expect LW to deploy and return from the same region as a manned Tempest? If so then do both platforms carry all their required fuel internally, or do both need air-to-air refueling, or is it a mix? What does that mean for logistics and tanker fleet size, and would we putting tankers into high risk environments to do this? Or can we deploy and recover LW from A400M or manned Tempest?… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Glass Half Full, 🙂 Establishing and sticking to mission requirements is a major challenge. Hence, as you pointed out, the drive to rapid development. I am not sure about the super fast turnover the US is considering as it often takes experience to get the best out of the human machine capability, but with AI coming into service who knows. The potential capabilities that technology offers when looking forward can be very confusing. I went from MoD tech scientific officer at RAe to defence analyst and the challenge was always briinging the military guys and techies on to the… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Interesting. I grew up close to RAE Farnborough and NGTE Pyestock.

TrevorH

Given the technology in the F35 and the Tempest it strikes me that a modern TSR2 would/could serve as a Strategic Bomber…

Watcherzero

I would imagine they are aiming for a low rate constant build of the Tempest itself (say 4 a year) and that there would be enough parts commonality on the drones that continuous production of them keeps the production lines open for building more Tempest if required.

ChariotRider

Hi Watcherzero,

That is a very interesting point especially if the drone is based on the Tempest airframe – although that would be a quite big and capable drone. Certainly worth thinking about.

Cheers CR

Glass Half Full

Taranis is about the size of a Hawk jet. So an unmanned Tempest, depopulated of unnecessary sensors and systems, as well as pilot support equipment, might make financial sense over a second airframe.

Steve

What i have always wondered is why fighter jets don’t have rear firing missiles to be used to take out missiles heading their way, in a similar to ship board anti-missile missile systems.

Jason Holmes

Firefox had them! you just have to think in Russian!

Daniele Mandelli

Beat me to it! Love that film. Wish I could get it on DVD.

Daniele Mandelli

The sequal novel was a cracker too, would have made a fine film I think.

Jason Holmes

I didn’t realise there was a sequel novel, what is it called?

Daniele Mandelli

“Firefox Down.” Same author. Better than the first. If you’ve seen the film after Gant flies into the sunset and wondered what happens next, read it.

Jason Holmes

lol

Watcherzero

Its kind of like taking off into the wind or releasing fish against the current. If your oriented with the blunt end facing the majority of the airflow the dynamics could be a bit unstable.

Steve

Must be ways around that, like letting it free fall for a bit first before starting it’s engine.

The Big Man

Also, what you have firing from the back would mean an equal amount removed from firing from the front. Weapons load would have to remain the same.

Ron5

Aircraft usually do take off into the wind!!

Watcherzero

Exactly as I said, pointy end into the airflow and taking off into the wind you also gain a lift boost from faster airflow over the wings as windspeed is added to groundspeed.

Glass Half Full
Steve

Interesting.

I guess until fairly recently there wasn’t much point, as missiles were fired too close to the target to realistically intercept them, but now with beyond visual range being the focus, it seems to me this might become more of a priority.

Is ASRAAM capable of intercepting another missile or just another jet?

DaveyB

The blurb states that it can take down cruise missiles. I don’t think the MoD would be too happy if it was widely known that the ASRAAM or even Meteor was capable of taking out an aircraft launched anti-aircraft missile. It would give away too much about the missile’s capabilities, that could then be factored in by an opponent.

BB85

A cruise missile normally travels sub sonic on a flat trajectory so is much easier to take out with ASRAAM. Intercepting another missile traveling at mach 4, at very short notice is a completely different ball game.

Daveyb

Kinetic energy would be the main reason. When the missile is fired forward the aircraft’s airspeed is added to the missile’s at launch. Therefore, the missile is not starting from zero airspeed, which also helps add additional range. Missiles such as IRIS-T and ASRAAM which can fire over the shoulder, but will loose a lot of initial velocity doing a very high g 180 turn, which will decrease the effective range. I guess this could be lessened if the turn was a lot looser. There have been a number of images of the supposed F22 replacement firing anti-missile missiles that… Read more »

Steve

I would guess kinetic energy can be partially mitigated. If you pushed the missile out of the jet (some form of compressed air/hydraulic push), without the missiles engine active, some of the energy would be lost, you could then deploy some form of air brakes to slow it further, as the missile drops (friction would help slow the missile at this point). Once enough energy has been depleted, the missile’s own engines could fire, admittedly from a much lower height.

i’m no engineer, so its probably not practical or would be too expensive.

DaveyB

Yes, much like Sea Ceptor’s compressed air cold launch system. Would it be enough to counter the negative speed of being launched backwards, its possible. It would definitely work against a chasing aircraft, but I’m not sure if it would be capable of chasing a fleeing aircraft, which then be dependent on that aircraft’s speed and distance.

ChariotRider

The system does in fact exist on the SU-34 two seater strike version of the Flanker. The SU-34 has a small rear facing threat warning radar and the system can launch AAM’s without the need to turn the aircraft around, which is just as well as the SU-34 is big and pretty heavy (e.g a fully armoured cockpit). I am not sure if the missiles come off the aircraft forwards and do a hard turn, or if they are lauched off the rear of the plane, effectively firing rearwards a la Lancaster tail gunner. If the latter the missile range… Read more »

DaveyB

From that angle, there are a lot of similarities to the Replica prototype aircraft.

Jason mote

Concrete lol are they using the blue circle radar from the tornado

ChariotRider

Yeh, my though as well 🙂

Jonathan

I did read a really interesting tec study a couple,of years ago that put forward the future of air combat was actually larger air frames with huge amounts of sensor, processing and ordnance capacity. the basic premise was that modern missiles, radar, networked systems and likely future drone swarms etc will Mean that the aircraft with the most Sensor, countermeasures, computing, Offensive and human decision making resources will win over a more agile opposition with less resources. basically it’s premises was that agility in air combat was going the Same way As big guns and heavy armour had in naval… Read more »

Mr Bell

Excellent. If this programme is pushed forwards and not allowed to fuzz out through lack of investment, we should see a hugely capable platform and massive foreign sales interest.
I note MBDA are involved. I’m hoping all the technology being developed is highly classified and protected by copyright laws?
Needs to be otherwise, like the Rafale jet took technology from Eurofighter programne so too will the Franco/ Spanish/ Germanic next generation fighter take from Tempest programme.

Steve

I wonder what they mean about city amount of data. Even a super computer that takes up a huge war-house can’t process that much data, so they are either massively overselling it or just mean a specific type of data. Either way, I still cant’ see how Tempest will ever go into production, there is no way that the UK and a handful of tiny nations with small budgets, can afford to get the scale needed to make them cost effective. Either that or we end up with something that looks shinny but is a few steps behind the eurofighter… Read more »