Tempest demonstrator ‘to fly within five years’

Team Tempest Future Combat Air System concept. Copyright BAE Systems

A demonstrator of the Tempest sixth-generation fighter will fly within the next five years, senior officials associated with the programme announced at the Farnborough International Airshow on 18 July, confirming that the ambitious pace of the programme has not let up.

Richard Berthon, the UK Ministry of Defence’s director for Future Combat Air, noted, however, that this event will be “just one demonstration out of a whole series of demonstration activities” associated with the programme, which aims to put a supersonic, sixth-generation fighter into Royal Air Force (RAF) service from 2035.

Tempest is “already flying digitally – something we couldn’t do in the past”, Berthon said, adding that the programme “is already generating some real outcomes” and has produced more than 50 patents.Noting that international partnering remains at the heart of the UK’s approach to future combat air, Berthon said, “We are now conducting joint concept analysis with Japan and Italy. We are looking at our respective military requirements and the potential alignment of our industrial bases. That’s to make decisions later on in the year and it’s a hugely important step in the programme.”

Describing Tempest as “an incredibly complex, challenging programme that requires an approach to skills and people on a scale and depth across the UK and with our international partners and across a wide range of disciplines, Berthon also said, “Today we’re launching what we’re calling the Generation Tempest Initiative. That’s about a really significant recruiting and skills drive, both in government and across our industrial partners and down into the supply chain.”

This involves an acceleration of recruitment into the programme and the establishment of a ‘Tempest academy’ “to ensure the people we bring into the programme have the skills that they need, and the relationships and networks that they’re going to need, to work together into the future”, said Berthon.

Lastly, Berthon noted the importance of “real technological innovation breakthrough, both in the specific technologies themselves and in the way we’re going about delivering those technologies”.

While the officials did not talk specifically about these, Alex Zino, executive vice president for business development and future programmes at Rolls-Royce, noted the importance of his company’s Orpheus project, which within two years developed and tested a family of small, efficient twin-spool engines featuring embedded electrical power generation.

by Peter Felstead, Farnborough