UK awards contract for next phase of development of its Tempest future fighter programme

29th July 2021 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

UK-based global major aerospace and defence group BAE Systems (BAES) announced on Thursday that it had been awarded a £250-million contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to further advance the design and development of the country’s Tempest Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The signing of this contract marks the formal initiation of the concept and assessment phase for Tempest.

The FCAS is being developed by a group of UK companies and UK subsidiaries of major Western aerospace and defence enterprises, collectively known as Team Tempest. These are BAES itself, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo UK and MDBA UK, plus experts from the UK MOD. Tempest is expected to become operational in the mid-2030s.

The concept and assessment phase will involve all these partner companies developing a spectrum of digital concepts which will embed new tools and techniques. These will then be used to design, shape and evaluate the final capability and design requirements for the Tempest.

“[Thursday] marks a momentous step in the next phase of our [FCAS], with a multi-million pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our UK industry experts,” enthused UK Defence Secretary (Cabinet Minister) Ben Wallace. “Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”

The FCAS programme will pioneer leading-edge technologies. It will include the development and application of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and machine learning. Consequently, the design and manufacturing of the Tempest necessitated a dramatically different approach to that currently employed. As a result, the lead Team Tempest companies were working with their supply chain enterprises to achieve a totally digital ‘ecosystem’ for the programme, incorporating agility, to ensure the delivery of efficiency, lower costs and rapid production, as well as advanced technologies.

“Working with our industry partners and the [UK MOD], we are on track to deliver an ambitious programme for the UK, which will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defence capability, capable of countering future threats and safeguarding our national security and defence,” said BAES Air Sector Group MD Chris Boardman. “The funding announced [Thursday] marks a critical next step for the programme and, with our partners, we will work together to define the technical and capability requirements and develop the concept which will bring Tempest to life.”