The UK Government has awarded a £656 million funding boost to a consortium of companies headed up by BAE Systems to progress the design and development of the sixth generation Tempest fighter jet.
The £656 million (US$815 million) work package is being headed up by BAE Systems with Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce. The funding will be used to progress more than 60 different technologies, digital concepts and new technologies for the aircraft.
The first flight of a Tempest demonstrator aircraft is planned for 2027 to test a range of new technologies including integration of stealth compatible features, BAE Systems has previously said. The UK Government is expected to spend a further £1.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) on the Tempest project during the next two years.
Companies in the UK have been working on Tempest since 2018. The Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) partnership with Japan and Italy was announced at the end of last year.
The supersonic-capable stealth fighter jet, which is planned to enter service by 2035 will be equipped with the latest sensing and protection equipment.
Capabilities touted for the jet in various reports include autonomy, AI, integration with drones, the use of directed energy weapons, virtual cockpits displayed inside helmets and hypersonic weapons.
Ben Wallace, UK Defence Secretary said, “The next tranche of funding for future combat air will help fuse the combined technologies and expertise we have with our international partners both in Europe and the Pacific.”
According to a 2021 report by consultants PWC, the GCAP could support an average of 21,000 jobs a year and contribute an estimated £26.2 billion to the economy by 2050.
Herman Claesen, managing director of future combat air systems for BAE Systems Air said, “This contract reflects the continued commitment by the UK Government and ensures we continue to mature this significant program and the vital technology pipeline that will drive innovation into – and beyond – the combat air sector for decades to come.
“This important work is at the core of the newly created Global Combat Air Programme, a major international partnership and ambitious endeavour between the UK, Japan and Italy with the shared goal to deliver the next generation of combat air fighter jets by 2035.”