The most significant defense story from Farnborough’s opening day is the British Government’s unveiling of its commitment to spend £2 billion ($2.65 billion) between now and 2025 to develop a new fighter aircraft — the 6th Generation TEMPEST optionally-manned fighter aircraft meant to replace the EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON within the Royal Air Force (RAF) and likely offered for export.
Speaking at Farnborough while unveiling a conceptual model (above) of the future fighter, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson outlined his country’s new combat air strategy, a strategy that, picking up on Prime Minster Theresa May’s show-opening assurances, is focused on assuring Britain’s status as a “tier one” military leader as the UK goes it alone next year after Brexit.
“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way” Secretary Williamson said, adding: “We have an ironclad plan to deliver this.”
BAE Systems will lead the industry consortium on Team TEMPEST, which includes the UK’s Rolls-Royce, Italy’s Leonardo and pan-European missile maker MBDA. It is expected that other industry players will be involved in the so-called Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI) program and it is projected that the new aircraft will be operational around 2035, five years before the EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON retirement date.
With the UK not involved in a recently-launched Franco-German future fighter development, Minister Williamson noted that Britain’s TEMPEST “approach hinges on international collaboration” and that the UK is seeking international partnership on the venture. Sweden and Italy have been rumored as prospective TEMPEST partners, as have Japan and Turkey.