The UK has already started work on a technology demonstration aircraft for its landmark Tempest Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) programme, with a first flight test planned within the next five years.
Designed as a sixth-generation stealth combat air platform, Tempest is intended to enter service from 2035 and gradually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. It’s unclear how many Tempest aircraft are expected to enter service, but it’s unlikely to be a one-for-one digital replacement for the Eurofighter multirole fighter.
Announcing news of the technology demonstration aircraft at the Farnborough International Airshow on July 18, senior officials from the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD), BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo and MBDA provided updates on program developments.
UK MoD FCAS Director Richard Berthon says Airforce Technology that a single supersonic demonstration aircraft will be manufactured for the first flight in 2027, although he declined to comment on which systems will initially be tested on the platform.
“The flight itself is one step of many,” Berthon said.
Work in progress
The design also completed 100 hours of digital flight, testing key components before manufacturing of the platform began, while the flight demonstration platform was described by officials as “low observable”.
On July 18, engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce also presented details of Project Orpheus, a program to develop and operate a new design jet turbine in less than 18 months, which would be used to inform the needs of Tempest propulsion.
Alex Zino, executive vice president of business development and future programs at Rolls-Royce Defense, said the engine concept was also designed with a 40% cost reduction. Given the length of the Tempest program, design speed and cost reduction will be crucial throughout its development.
Leonardo, another industry partner, is also developing its own demonstration platform to develop the next generation of sensor system capabilities, known as Excalibur, with a schedule possibly aligned with the aircraft. Tempest trial.
The Tempest program is being developed in cooperation with Japan and Italy, with Sweden also closely aligned with the development of Tempest. Further decisions regarding domestic and industry partnerships are expected to be made by the end of 2022.
In a July 18 statementBen Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, said he was “delighted that the UK, alongside Italy, Japan and Sweden, are working together on the same combat air travel”.
Tempest’s rival in continental Europe, the joint Franco-German effort also known as FCAS, is taking a markedly different path than its British counterpart, with labor sharing and political issues on the agenda.