While the announcement of a full-scale mock-up of a twin engine single-seater called Tempest at the Farnborough Airshow was widely reported, don’t read too much into it.

Tempest’s purpose is to explore the technologies and systems that could form a future combat air system. It is not yet at the stage of building a demonstrator aircraft, it may never end up being in any way similar to the mock-up.

According to a Commons Library briefing paper which provides a brief overview of the Strategy, the process is still at very early stages and is focused more on exploring and developing potential technologies. It states that:

“Tempest was a fighter aircraft in World War Two, although the Strategy only uses this term in the context of ‘Team Tempest’ – it does not confirm this will be the name of whatever aircraft or system emerges.”

The companies involved have given some indications of the technologies and techniques they are looking at. The Strategy itself discusses ‘Pyramid’: the project to develop open mission systems architecture. This should make upgrades simpler and more cost effective and allow partners/export customers to easily integrate their own mission systems.

Rolls Royce has talked of developing a future power system that drives not just the aircraft but provides a “step-change levels of electrical power (for the future systems on board)”.

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 aircraft, say the defence giant, is likely to operate with kinetic and non-kinetic weapons.

A BAE produced concept image of a rear-firing laser on Tempest via BAE.

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 key talking point is the ability to deploy and manage air launched ‘swarming’ Unmanned Air Vehicles through a flexible payload bay allows the system to address dangerous Anti-Access Area Denial environments. In the US, Phase III of a programme that will see C-130 aircraft drop drone swarms has now started according to reports.
Concept imagery of Tempest dropping drones via BAE.

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’.

The Tempest concept aircraft model at the Farnborough International Airshow.

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.

The USAF are also pursuing this with newer aircraft, notably the B-2 bomber replacement, the B-21. A document DODIG-2015-170, published last year named “Audit of the Acquisition of the Long Range Strike Bomber,” as well as other documents in a heavily redacted form, contain highly relevant official confirmations as to the aircraft’s baseline requirements.

The document clearly states that the B-21 will indeed be optionally manned as a core requirement.

Retaining on-board controls, an OPV can operate as a conventional aircraft during missions for which direct human control is preferred or desired as an immediate option.

Another trend being embraced by ‘Team Tempest’ is an ability deliver significant information advantage and mission effectiveness, the future combat air system will act as a ‘force multiplier’, inter operating with a wide range of other civil and military platforms and services across air, land, sea, space and cyber domains – as well as unmanned systems.

Leonardo says it will “mature the critical technologies to deliver next generation sensing and communications alongside the advanced open-system architectures that will deliver a step-change in how the sensors are employed within an operational system.”

An MBDA slide lists a range of possible weapons, including deep strike, swarming, directed energy, hypersonic and strike weapons. BAE Systems is looking into a software-driven cockpit to be all in the pilot’s helmet. Media reports also talk of the aircraft being ‘optionally manned’ suggesting the MoD is looking at the possibility of flying a system without a pilot on board.

The paper also states that the UK has been working with France for the last few years on an unmanned combat air system demonstrator programme. However, the future of that was thrown into doubt last year when France teamed up with Germany to develop its own Future Combat Air System.

Whether the UK eventually partners France and Germany, or forges ahead on a separate programme with other partners, won’t become clear for some time. It is quite possible the three nations will eventually work together – which is the view of the CEO of the Eurofighter Typhoon consortium, who believes “Europe will converge on one fighter solution”.

The Commons Library briefing paper also lays out the ambitious timeline leading up to an initial operating capability of 2035 for whatever emerges:

• End 2018: a strategic outline business case
• Mid-2019: initial assessment of international collaboration options
• End 2020: early decisions for capability acquisition (capability, partnership approach, cost and delivery schedule)
• 2025: final investment decisions
• 2035: initial Operating Capability

91 COMMENTS

  1. PR exercise, technology demonstrator, keeping UK aerospace industry at the cutting edge. All possible.

    A future air combat platform, Definately no.

  2. “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.”
    So the F35B really is a mistake since it has none of those abilities??

      • LM’s F-22/F-35 hybrid proposal was costed out at $177 million per airplane by the Japanese. An F-35A will run about $80-85 million in the coming years. Just what do you expect the USAF to do since they already know they need more fighters

    • I think you will find the F35 will revolutionise combat air capability. the Tempest program is to look well beyond the F35 and Typhoon. Much like the American 6th Gen project’s are looking beyond the F22.

      • Robert, I think the point is that the US Air Force has finally realised that with all the current problems surrounding the F35 programme at the moment it’s better to start again and make use of any technological advancements in a future proofed air frame.

        They have invested $100 Billion dollars with a further $1 Billion dollars still required to fix all the currently known issues. In the next five to ten years the advantages that it will offer against a peer enemy will have pretty much vanished so why would we be looking to invest in them in any great (138)?

        2025 is the date suggested for a fully combat operational F35B, so it makes little sense to me to carry on down this road apart from having enough of them to defend the carriers short term while future proofing Typhoon and using it to test and evaluate the technology required for Tempest.
        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/30/f35_dote_report_software_snafus/

  3. Sadly we cannot trust France and Germany with what would be one of the most important UK defence project for decades. There is zero doubt in my mind, they WILL screw us over.

    • Yep the French and Germans have a rich history of either trying to screw us over or actually acheiving said screw over.
      Best to not involve them or allow them ANY access to the programme.

      • Indeed we have the increasing problem adding to that history, the fact that Germany having been the dominant economic European power is rapidly under Merkel becoming the predominant political one too. That was France’s traditional role in this biopic union and therefore as we already see with the UK, but also Italy being excluded from their new aircraft programme, that the Germans are bending over backwards to help the French to look like they retain influence, prestige and power well beyond the actual reality of whats happening in Europe. No room for others in these determined face saving tactics, so the already suspect nature of dealing with these powers (especially France) is made even less credible I would say.

        • Weall need to stop the tribal sabre rattling and decide what kind of future we want, then perhaps the inovators out there will have a free rein in research and developement. The current state of affairs in the German air force leaves much to be desired, and there. has not been the political will in the UK to leap into the future. She is trying, slowly, but with enormous financial constraints. Outside of the US and Russia, who can afford R&D?

    • I note the USN have given Boeing a contract for four MQ-25A and to integrate said aircraft into a carrier air wing. Not long before they are carrying missiles. Soon the USN will be able to sit one side of the India Ocean or Atlantic and sink and flatten stuff on the other. Thank heavens we went CTOL with QEC so we can take advantage of all this progress. Whoops!

      • (Chris H) David – And you think CTOL is the only way to launch a drone? Drones do not necessarily need catapults. Try and think a bit more laterally rather than wed yourself to what has gone before. And I wouldn’t get too excited by this news because they are for refuelling not combat. At a cost of some $200 Mn each.

        The RN gave the world every advanced aircraft carrier development ever made. All are still in use today. Indeed we invented the carrier concept and built the first one. I believe we may have just created the next development that provides 5th Gen capability on a carrier at 35% of the cost of a CVN. We moved the capability from the ship to the aircraft. But I am not sure a $200 Mn air tanker is where we need to be right now

          • An unmanned fuel tanker that will be mostly used to top up bolters.

            Bolters that will not happen with F-35B on QE.

          • (Chris H) David – Well it does matter what you think when, by inference, you think that the QE should have been CATOBAR fitted. That was my point. The rest was a reality check in the MQ-25A which you say is for launching missiles at distance when in reality its a very expensive refuelling system.

  4. Some technical challenges?

    “There are still some technical challenges that we have to overcome, mainly size, weight, power.”

    Sounds like all of the technical challenges involved with putting a laser on a plane!!! 🙂

  5. (Chris H) I don’t think anyone thinks the model revealed at Farnborough is in any way an exemplar of the final deal. Its a simple visual representation (and a powerful one) of a statement of intent. I think you will find its this test model built some years ago :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiFIw8OkTWk&t=28s

    Someone had the bright idea to turn it the right way up, bolt in a Typhoon undercart, repaint it with RAF Roundels and job done. And well done them as it served its purpose and grabbed the headlines.

    I actually take a more positive view than that expressed in this article and I am not too concerned at whatever the USA is doing as we won’t be, and shouldn’t be, party to it for the simple reason we either have our own project or we get subsumed by US Incorporated. Again. Team Tempest is a direction of travel with funding to form a strategy to produce a Typhoon replacement. F-35 will fly alongside it. I apologise for repeating what I have said before but all the work should now be going into producing an airframe because we already have everything else – engines, combat systems, incredibly advanced helmet systems, weapon integration etc. We could strip a Tiffy airframe and bolt its engines, cockpit, black boxes and all the systems into a trial airframe and we are 80% there. Add in F-35 sensor suites (to which we have intellectual rights as a Tier One Partner) and what else is there to do for a prototype? We could do that right now.

    • I’m confused: 80% to where? To getting a prototype in the air?

      That’s not really the hard part is it? All new aircraft programs fly prototypes fairly quickly. The F-35 had two before the final manufacturer was even chosen. That was 17 years ago and the UK still hasn’t got the aircraft into service yet.

      • (Chris H) Ron5 – You conflate two very different programmes and ignore the fact the UK has slowed its purchasing to suit carrier integration and IOC dates and lower purchase price of later LRIP runs and nothing to do with F-35 development. We also gave up early production space to assist the USMC gain IOC which it did in early 2015. Having said that it was a programme to replace 5 (I think) aircraft with one (with variations). They went through the same endless rounds of specification talks and battles as we did with Tornado and Typhoon and tells us we must never get bogged down in such a farce ever again – so NO German, french or US involvement except as parts suppliers. Team Tempest will be a very much simpler ( in management terms) because it will be a UK led programme with Italian involvement to replace one aircraft using capabilities we already have in place.

        As an add on comment: US Incorporated doesn’t do cost effective delivery. It makes profits on doing things slowly. Look at the KC-46 tanker: 10 years and counting and not one in service, Boeing $ Mns over budget while the UK ordered 14 10 years ago and has had all in service for some time.

        • Just saying getting something to fly and getting something into service are two hugely different things. One take a lot longer than the other.

        • This was another controversial buy for the USAF. The original tanker competition was won by Airbus with their A330 tanker. Politicians raised a big stink about Airbus not being an American product. The competition was re-run with Boeing winning it. Needless to say, the Boeing choice has been underperforming.

    • Well thats the prototype planned for what we were going to do before we entered the F35 programme and I believe some aspects of which were included within it. Some aspects of that will no doubt be further developed (indeed has continued to be developed inside and outside the F35) but equally much has changed also since the late 90s when that was being developed.

    • As far as I’m aware the IP on the F35 is a nightmare in that the DOD completely hashed up the original contract in regards to clear IP and has been arguing on and off with Lockheed,PW, RR and the U.K. government ever since.

    • (Chris H) PKCasimir – We have such rights as agreed by one George W Bush with Tony Blair in the early wrangles over our Tier One position and rights and indeed if we would buy the aircraft if we didn’t have such rights. we have full autonomy over our aircraft. Its about the only good thing Blair achieved.

      LM have said British fingerprints are all over the F-35 and especially its software. And you think we haven’t taken one apart and seen how it works …??

      • And do you really think BAE which derives most of it’s income from it’s acquisition of United Defense, survive exporting proprietary DOD technology? The F-35 is covered under TDR (technical data rights) which the DOD owns. Having the IP to make changes to software or make subassemblies does NOT equate to export rights.
        Do you really think Congress wouldn’t hammer BAE for what it would consider a theft of taxpayer funded technology? Also Britain secured Tier One (and therefore industrial goodies) partnership by saying it would order aircraft. The order schedule is stretched out so long I have ocean front property in Arizona if you believe they will all be acquired. In addition to that the workshate given was over generous considering the UK will not even be acquiring 10% of the aircraft.

        • Elliott is correct. The UK does not have IP rights for the F-35. Nobody does outside of the US.

          Not only that, the F-35 has embedded software that the UK will never see or be able to copy. Yes, there’s plenty of US Bae software in the EW capability but that’s not available to Bae in the UK.

          Blair & Co tried to get access to all F-35 software source code, he was denied.

          • (Chris H) Ron5 – Sorry but we are going to have to agree to disagree. Blair and Bush signed off complete autonomy for the UK over its own aircraft including software. And please don’t think the later software development was done by US BAE. It wasn’t it was all done here in the UK and why the boss at LM said “The fingerprints of British ingenuity can be found on dozens of the aircrafts key components” along with praising the UK’s contribution.

            Quote:
            “On 27 May 2006, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that “Both governments agree that the UK will have the ability to successfully operate, upgrade, employ, and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter such that the UK retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft.”
            – Steven Fidler: “Bush gives way over stealth fighter.” Financial Times, 26 March 2006

            Quote:
            “In December 2006, an agreement was signed which met the UK’s demands for further participation, i.e., access to software source code and operational sovereignty. The agreement allows “an unbroken British chain of command” for operation of the aircraft”
            – “Update 2 – UK signs memo with US on Joint Strike Fighter.” Reuters, 12 December 2006

            Quote:
            “The software team at the BAE site in Samlesbury, Lancashire, has worked alongside Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, to deliver the latest software updates throughout the history of the programme. We understand that there are more than eight million lines of code required for full operational capability. Recently, they worked on Block 3i which equips the aircraft with 89% of the software code required
            https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/how-much-of-the-f-35-is-british-built/

            I am not sure what else I can provide to convince you. I don’t just pluck statements out of thin air.

          • Facts:

            EW software for the F-35 which by far the major Bae software contributor to the F-35 is developed in New Hampshire, USA. This software is not available to the UK. Especially for copying or replication in a different aircraft.

            The UK doesn’t have any ability to copy and or reuse F-35 source in the Tempest which was your original proposal. In fact if the UK copies any of the code, it is breach of IP law.

            Basically, you are making erroneous assumptions about the UK’s ability to reuse software from a US aircraft.

          • (Chris H) Ron5 – well as I said we will have to agree to disagree. Given we wrote a few million lines of F-35 software I would venture we own that IP and I think the sources I provided tell a different story.

            And sorry but please don’t do an Elliott. I never said we should ‘copy’ or ‘reuse’ anything from F-35 and I certainly never said we should steal anything to use it on Tempest. I said we could migrate systems WE have developed for Typhoon on to Tempest and that was our original discussion. Not sure why you have angled it away. My sole reference to F-35 was ” Add in F-35 sensor suites …”

            As I explained to Elliott if we wanted to ‘add in’ a certain sensor suite off F-35 that was in some way embargoed then we could apply to LM and get US Government approval through the usual channels

            So no “erroneous assumptions about the UK’s ability to reuse software from a US aircraft” from me at all Ron rather its you misrepresenting or misinterpreting what has been written. I never used those words at all anywhere. Please at least acknowledge that?

        • (Chris H) Elliott – Once again you denigrate everything like the UK is some 3rd rate country – same sh*t different day. No the UK is a Tier One Partner for many reasons: We invested over $2.3 Bn to fund the initial concepts, design and development of the programme; We took on the development and system proving of the ‘Liftsystem’ (after all who invented VTOL and made it work); we took on the design, development and testing of the whole rear end, tailplanes and empennages. Its why we got to build them; We undertook the non-destructive service life testing of two full size F-35 airframes; The UK is also the highest purchaser outside the USA. And who flew the first VTOL test flight? A British pilot and the only overseas air force involved in the test and evaluation squadrons is the British RAF and FAA.

          I know it really bugs you the UK is so much better than you want it to be. Well get used to it Pal we are going get even better. And we won’t be hanging our arses on US Incorporated either. Pony up $2.3 Bn and we will let LM build the left tailplane for Tempest. We are generous like that.

          And lastly I never said we would steal anything or act illegally. I said I am sure we will have taken something apart to see how it was made.We could for example ask LM to supply a version of something on the F-35 we wish to use on Tempest could we not? Please don’t create a falsehood to project your confirmation bias. Its too obvious.

          • Why would the US cough up money for your program? We already have two 6th gen fighters in development. In addition to a new strategic bomber.

            Also did I say the UK was a third rate country? No I did not. The only one projecting is you. What I said was export of military technology is tightly controlled. “Add in F-35 sensor suites and we are almost there,” – that would in fact be theft of Military technology under US law. Not even Lockheed has permission to export without Congressional approval through the FMS program. Ask France about their missile sales and that was a much smaller part. What you would be suggesting is taking technical data of a expensive defense project and then trying to market your own product. Not something that would go over well in Washington. Not a very bright idea when the company you be using to do it would be vulnerable to numerous consequences at a stroke of a pen under several US laws.
            Who invented VTOL? The Soviet Union Yak-36 (1963).
            By your logic if my wife paid a contractor to build a porch and he had to buy lumber to build, it somehow it would be his and he could sell it and the leftover lumber to someone else. That’s not how it works it’s not only my porch it’s also my lumber.

          • (chris H) Elliot – once again this is getting tedious as you are misrepresenting (again) what I have said and I quote:
            “Add in F-35 sensor suites and we are almost there”

            Did I say steal it? Did I say LM should steal it? Did I say we should smuggle it out of the USA? No I didn’t so grow up and stop fabricating. As I actually said and I quote:
            “We could for example ask LM to supply a version of something on the F-35 we wish to use on Tempest could we not?”

            Sort of how we asked LM to supply 138 F-35s with all the Congressional and US approvals required. Did we not Elliot?

            I am done here …..

  6. So much more to come.

    “BAE Systems is studying a series of concepts designed to improve the cockpit of the Eurofighter Typhoon, in preparation for the installation of new sensors. The company is looking at equipping the cockpit with wide-area displays and exploring the potential of augmented reality, using its Striker 2 advanced helmet to display the increased levels of data expected to emanate from new electronically scanned radar and a new generation of targeting pods that can deliver higher-fidelity …”
    https://www.janes.com/article/73995/dsei-2017-bae-systems-touts-large-area-display-for-typhoon

    • So what’s best: evolve Typhoon further or use that money to develop Tempest to get a quantum leap? There wont be enough to do both.

      • (Chris H) Ron5 – they are not mutually exclusive. Whatever is developed for Typhoon can be migrated directly to ‘Tempest’ in prototype or even ‘Tranche 1’ production. Indeed that is exactly what Williamson was saying at the launch. We can develop and prove systems on Typhoon before migration to ‘Tempest’. Just as we proved weapon systems on Tornado, improved them and then migrated them to Typhoon.

        • Sounds great but in practice costs you money that really is mutually exclusive.

          Which systems were migrated from Tornado to Typhoon? How much did it cost to integrate them on Typhoon?

          • (Chris H) Ron5 – Brimstone, Paveway, Storm Shadow all upgraded from earlier Tornado versions and migrated to Typhoon. For example BAE already have a more advanced helmet system than the one currently used on Typhoon so Typhoon is upgraded to use the later ‘Striker II’ helmet and this is then migrated to Tempest. No additional costs anywhere and the development is faster as it is an evolution of what we already have.

          • So reusing the same weapons and the pilot’s helmet?? That’s a bit weak isn’t it?

            And you didn’t supply the costs of integrating the old weapons on Typhoon. In fact that was and remainsvery expensive and I doubt that they were previously integrated on different aircraft designs made much difference to that cost.

          • (Chris H) Ron5 – Why be so picky? I gave the systems that were migrated to Typhoon and then gave ONE example – the helmet system – of what tempest could receive from Typhoon. And you say ‘its weak’. It was not an exhaustive list of every system just a simple example to show how we could very easily migrate Typhoon systems to Tempest at lower cost than designing an all new aircraft (that was the implication)

            And yes you are right I didn’t provide a detailed cost analysis because I doubt its available. But what is certain is it was cheaper than developing completely new weapons from scratch ….

          • The systems themselves don’t easily migrate but lets say a new Pirate system could be developed for the Typhoon then adapated, migrated over to a new airframe some components remain common a thus costs can be kept down. But there’s additional cost as airframes are fussy airflow and weight of equipment need to be carefully considered to maintain the performance parameters.

  7. @ Ron5

    Yes because the USN are doing all of this just to buy a “tanker”.

    I note you failed to respond to anything I said about Boxer. I am beginning to see a pattern.

    • Yes, they are just buying an unmanned tanker.

      No doubt there will be future USN programs for unmanned bombers and fighters but none on the immediate horizon. They’re committing that kind of money & resources into getting the F-35C into service just like the UK is getting the F-35B into UK service.

      I’m don’t know what Boxer questions you have, please ask again and I’ll do my best to answer.

      • As far as I am aware it was originally planned to far more than a tanker. however those aspects are simply not ready for such purposes as yet so this is away of not losing all the work done while keeping a system of this nature developing and gain experience no doubt, to a hopeful time when it will indeed be ready for a more prominent role.

        • Simple things like seem to sail over Ron5’s head. Better to make the half arsed nasty comment and think later. I think the latter must cause him great difficulty, hurt, or probably both.

          • (Chris H) David – Forgive me but why make this personal? Ron5 was simply making a point which disagreed with yours. As I have found you seem to dislike being challenged and make out people are ‘making nasty comments’ when they aren’t. And you then become personally abusive yourself which makes you a bit of a hypocrite.

            Keep to the debate / issue and stop getting personal and we can all enjoy your positive contributions. Its called argument!

  8. Elliot you said the Russian Yak 31 was the first VTOL jet. This is incorrect the first jet was the Hawker Siddeley Aviation Kestrel which first flew in 1960. This was the forerunner to the Harrier. Before the Kestrel we had the flying bedstead a concept to test the Kestrels engines and that performed VTOL landings.

  9. Typhoon is the perfect test bed for developing the technology to be used in our next 6th gen fighter/bomber and we have the very best designers and engineers to make it happen. All that’s required is the appropriate funding and the belief in what we can achieve as a country.

    Time for HMG to start allocating it rather than giving it away.

    While the Striker II is by far the most advanced helmet to contain a head-mounted display, it could also be the last. Head-worn displays are shrinking to the point they could eventually sit inside a pair of sunglasses with the helmet is worn on top.

    “There are lots of developments to come and they’re moving at quite a pace,”
    http://home.bt.com/tech-gadgets/future-tech/inside-baes-striker-ii-the-most-advanced-fighter-pilot-helmet-ever-made-11364174261792

  10. Question,

    Is there a better way of spending this amount of money?
    Typhoon upgrades, Tempest development, UAV’s, EMALS for the Carriers (within the next five years if fixed)?

    The woes of a large government software project will be familiar to many Register readers. However, the extended timescale of the F-35 project – it has been flying since the beginning of this decade – raises questions as to whether the UK is spending its money wisely on this project. Each of Britain’s future F-35Bs will cost us around £90m at current prices – and that price excludes spares, software updates, and so on.

    So far Britain has committed to buying 48 F-35Bs, of which we currently have 14 on charge. In total the UK plans to buy 138 jets, and a fag-packet sum tells us that is a planned spend of £12bn. If you lump in the support costs, that will probably treble the spend over the aircraft’s lifetime.
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/30/f35_dote_report_software_snafus/

    • F35, still a work in progress.

      The GAO report broke down the shortfalls into two categories: Category 1 deficiencies are defined as “those that could jeopardize safety, security, or another critical requirement,” while Category 2 deficiencies “are those that could impede or constrain successful mission accomplishment.” The report cited 111 Category 1 and 855 Category 2 deficiencies.

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-05/key-f-35-defects-must-be-fixed-before-full-production-gao-says

    • (Chris H) Nigel – When people ask this question about the F-35 they always look at the debit side and never mention the credit side. Operating costs of the F-35 will be whatever they will be and if we had bought or developed another STOVL aircraft we would pay to operate that instead. So lets just look at purchase cost not that anyone really know the ACTUAL price paid at time of purchase. But lets take your £12 Bn total for the Debit side

      Back in 2016: According to independent aerospace industry analyst Howard Wheeldon, “the program has so far returned more than GBP6 billion (USD8.4bn) to British industry.”

      Declan Holland, BAE Systems’ commercial director for its UK F-35 business [said]
      “Ultimately, the UK will take in about £1bn of business each year on this program.” Holland went on to note that the program could continue into the 2040s.

      So a 30 year programme @ £1 Bn a year and 25,000 UK jobs feeding the UK economy and a massive contribution by our manufacturing exports to our trade balance

      http://aviationweek.com/shownews/uk-earn-billions-f-35-work

      So the full financial picture is that on the Credit side we have some £30 Bn while on the Debit side we have some £12 Bn. Or in Business Case terms that is a 2.5 : 1 benefit / cost ratio. This does not account for the initial UK contribution of $2.3 Bn

      • Chris, The F35 Program sadly will be dead long before the 2040’s and most probably before the 2030’s in its current form with costs spiraling out of control and an endless array of problems still to be fixed.

        In ten years time it will be pretty much passed its sell by date hence the reason for the US looking at a hybrid platform to replace it.

        What looks good on paper may not necessarily be the case in reality? Lets see!
        https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/aviation/a21098498/f-35-problems-fix-before-production/

        • (Chris H) Nigel – You do of course make an excellent point and none of us can foresee the future but even if the whole thing dies a death by say 2030 that will still show us some £20 Bn return. Now of course if the thing is as bad as this and dies an early death then I doubt we will be buying 138 F-35s so that £12 Bn will be far less as well.

          I just think we did a great deal on the F-35 as we get aircraft basically nett free, we get to produce high end 5th Gen airframes and we have had a huge learning curve on software, systems and sensors for free. And it allowed us to deliver two superb supercarriers for 60% of what the US Navy is currently spending on one ship that is some 150 feet longer in the bow and needs 3 times as many crew.

          I see no negatives however F-35 pans out especially now we have Tempest in which to utilise all that new found capability. Another plus.

          • “… we get to produce high end 5th Gen airframes and we have had a huge learning curve on software, systems and sensors for free”

            These are the points I am having trouble swallowing.

            Yes, the UK is getting great experience producing modern parts for the F-35. But not the whole airframe. Tho I do suspect the fatigue rig you referenced earlier could be a great source of info. Knowing what or what not breaks where.

            The second is just flat wrong. Yes, the RAF will learn the capabilities of the new kit but that doesn’t help a UK company to make them.

            And that’s why Bae and others are pushing for a UK complete airframe development program. Not because they can reuse stuff that Lockheed invented but to keep fresh the skills they currently have to do what Lockheed did for the F-35.

            But really doubt the UK has the political will to actually build a Tempest. It’s still a Theresa May PR exercise designed to placate UK MP’s that want more spending on defence.

          • Very true Chris, and I accept the point you make clearly.

            On the other hand, do we want to be left with 138 aircraft that will be most probably compromised by then an of little value to us with nothing left in the pot? That’s my only concern.

  11. I strongly plead to HMG to not make this a project purely to position us to be able join the Franco Germans. This must be a platform to redeveloping a holistic aero industry once more with the Uk being able to design and manufacture all elements of complex military aircraft ourselves. I’m all for a few minor partners to guarantee enough sales to cover the development costs, but we must not sell out on this just so we can build the left tail fin and some helmets. Tempest and Taranis should be developed alongside each other as a combined system that we and other countries can buy into and works seemlessly for a wide variety of roles. And we must build 60-70% of it all so we see a real economic benefit, development of skills and investment in industry. The draw down effects over the coming decades could be phenomenal as we leave the EU.

    • Agreed T.S
      Hope to see as many constructive posts as possible. We have a lot of experienced people on this forum, so let’s put it to good use!

  12. Let’s not be too negative about a partnership with France/Germany. Whilst they have let us down in the past, so have we with the FREMM/T45 project and probably others.

    We are too small a nation to do this completely along, as doing so will result in a sub par fighter probably not a lot more advanced than the Eurofighter and certainly well behind what the US builds post the f35. Mainly due to over promises from the government with out the money actually being available, causing massive cost overruns resulting from capability cuts mid program and orders being slashed.

    In my opinion we either go with the US and ultimately have very little say in the project or we create a European alliance where we have an equal say in the project but where you have lots of conflicting priorities.

    A wildcard option might be to talk Japan into doing something, with their defence budget growing fast due to the threat of China, they might be willing to put down the money, but my guess they will buy from the US.

    • (Chris H) Steve – Sorry I must really disagree with everything you have written there. Why do people believe we are just a small insignificant country with no capability to deliver Tempest? Why all the continual negative outlook? And as for your suggesting an alliance with a bunch of people who have played a damaging and potentially dangerous game (in Northern Ireland) over Brexit, have kicked us out of Galileo and have turned their backs on us and the Italians over their new fighter I really do fail to understand your logic. Every time we get involved with anything ‘European’ it costs us far more than it should. We could have delivered all the RAF and Italian Typhoons with Italy and it would have cost us far less. Plus all the exports have been won by us and the Italians.

      Japan is nothing more than the eyes and ears for US Incorporated and we must keep them at a (respectful) distance and used only as parts suppliers. And as for suggesting we be subsumed under yet another US Incorporated mega project? No thanks. This is the country that will seriously shaft you for a few dollars more: Merlins for Marine One? A330 MRTT? F-35 Tier One Partner that has to send its engines to Turkey and its airframes to Italy for maintenance?

      I am not sure we shafted anyone over FREMM like we were shafted by the French over Tornado, Typhoon and the carriers. We didn’t cost anyone any money but we did prove we could build the best air defence destroyer bar none all on our own. Just as we can with Temepst. Sadly we used a US power control system on T45 but such is life.

      I am reminded of that theme in ‘Kellys Heroes’ : – “There you are with all those negative vibes again Man!”

      • Probably because the UK IS a small, relatively insignificant country without the will to build another fighter on it’s own!

        But I live in US Incorporated so what do I know?

        • (Chris H) Ron5 – You live in a factory? wow …
          But you did just answer something that has been nagging at me. And your insulting remark right there about the UK (the 5th largest economy in the world, the second largest contributor to NATO and the USA’s best and often ONLY ally) answered it. Forgive me if I think you are either another Elliot profile or just a rather overly myopic Yank who uses patriotism as a weapon to insult anyone outside the USA and to chop down anything not made in ‘MURICAAA’.

          Thanks for removing all doubt.

          • I was making a joke by replaying your words back at you, but I guess your great British humor totally missed it 🙂

    • Steve – the UK had no involvement in the FREMM Programme,the Type 45’s were an offshoot of the Project Horizon/Orrizonte class of ships.

  13. @ Chris H

    No Ron5 was being what seems to be his usual self. His Half arsed comments aren’t an argument. And when I do proves his half arsed comments wrong he seems to fall silent.

    You would do well to remember this place isn’t your own personal sandbox. I can see why you would be opposed to a system like Disqus because the likes of you would end up talking to themselves.

    • (Chris H) – David – Since when did I claim ownership of this ‘sandbox’? (cue stifled laugh)

      Oh ‘the likes of me’? Someone inferior to your good self of course? Do explain the qualifications and I will wear it with pride.

      And you did just prove my point. Anyone who disagrees with you as I did by asking you to stay on topic and NOT make it personal gets the personal shit and insults while you cry ‘foul’ far too easily.

  14. Seems like more defence industry future sales PR and ‘situating the appreciation’ (cart) before the requirement (horse) has been defined? What the RAF, FAA and AAC need are larger numbers (attritional resilient mass) of combat effective, low acquisition cost, low introduction into Service and through-life support and evolution cost, rapidly re-roleable and spirally adaptable future-proof platforms with export advantage. What seems to being dangled is ever fewer, even more costly, more highly complex, more cyber/spectrum denial vulnerable, and likely ‘too expensive to put in harms way’ trophy air systems. There is probably a fantastic opportunity for UK aerospace, the MOD and wider and more innovative UK industry, but perhaps not taking the same old same old approach as is being proposed here. One definition of insanity, allegedly attributed to Einstein, is “doing the same (flawed) thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The proposed 16 year project timeline (as of today) will likely deliver any resulting compromise air system coming into service/IOC with minimal combat effect, late, over cost and using obsolete technology, to deliver a 20+ year old requirement that has been overtaken by future threats, tactics and technology. Another definition to consider – Tempest – ‘a violent storm’.

  15. I’ve only heard Tempest on this site. Do any of you informed viewers know the stated long term goal? Is it to have a 5/6th gen fighter as a replacement or is is in addition to them? I always thought Europe needed a medium bomber?

    Trying to read the tea leaves it appears the U.S. is moving to the next cycle of evolutionary change. The B-21 really seems like an original but updated B-2 with the complicating low level entry taken out.

    The USAF Penetrating Counter Air concept seemed like a hodgepodge of B-1 low level entry and an updated fighter. So basically the LM/Japan f-35/f-22 but sized up.

    I suspect PCA will turn out to be a retry of an older medium bomber concept for the escort/low level entry bomber. So a B-1/f-35/f-22 combo. You know a larger version of the f-111 with stealth bones but no expensive coating to maintain. Something like 3200-4000Km, 12 Jassm cruise missiles.

    Off course I’m just projecting not on what’s best tech wise, but what’s best budget wise. Being from the U.S. I’m hoping the kids have a soft landing on the way down from empire. Sadly, due to our national character I suspect a crash and burn.

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