A Combat Air Strategy will be launched to ensure Britain maintains a ‘world-leading combat air capability’, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in front of the defence select committee.
The MoD say they will work ‘across Government and closely with industry and international partners’ to explore the UK’s future Combat Air capabilities, building on the Industrial Strategy and refreshed Defence Industrial Policy launched last year.
They say the strategy will examine the operational capability needed in the future and the skills and resource required to deliver it.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“Since the birth of airpower, British industry has been crucial to maintaining our military’s world-leading position. As we celebrate 100 years of the RAF protecting our skies, it is fitting that we create bold and ambitious plans to help our brave Armed Forces keep us safe in the face of intensifying threats.
The Combat Air Strategy will bring together the best of British engineering, skill and design, and deliver a compelling vision for the future of air power.”
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said:
“It is especially fitting that we launch the Combat Air Strategy as our Royal Air Force marks its 100th anniversary. Combat Air capabilities have been at the heart of the RAF’s capabilities throughout its history, and are constantly employed on operations across the world today.
This strategy will ensure that the RAF can continue to remain at the forefront of the high-end airpower technology and innovation we need to deal with future threats, working in close collaboration with UK industry and our international partners.”
According to the Ministry of Defence, the UK is already a world-leader in the air sector which accounts for 85% of Britain’s defence export orders. The industry is made up of close to 2,500 companies, generating more than £33.5bn in turnover and employing more than 128,000 people – some 26,000 of them in highly skilled research, design and engineering jobs.
Investment in combat air technology combined with the strengths of UK industry has resulted in the UK being the US’ only Tier 1 partner on the F-35 Lightning II programme, with British industry building around 15% of every F-35 which is built. The UK has been able exploit the operational capabilities of the aircraft, while reinforcing UK industrial capability, skills and wider economic prosperity (despite campaigning for Belgium to purchase Typhoon over the F-35). The UK however is one of the four partner nations in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme.