The images of the Tempest FCAS with the roundel surfaced online after the British Prime Minister’s visit to BAE Systems’ facility in Warton.
Last week, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited BAE Systems’ facility in Warton, where he toured the Factory of the Future that the company created and talked about the recent Integrated Defence Review. BAE created this Factory of the Future as a first-of-its-kind, fully connected, digital factory with the latest state of the art Industry 4.0 technologies to demonstrate how military aircraft (including the Tempest FCAS) could be built in the future.
According to Johnson, this is a “big moment” for the defence industry and the government had to make some tough and expensive decisions to invest in 21st century technology and modernize the armed forces to make them more lethal and effective around the world, while also becoming more valuable to UK’s allies and more deterring to the adversaries.
— Team Tempest (@TeamTempestUK) March 22, 2021
Among the 21st century technologies that the government is investing in there is the Tempest Future Combat Air System, the 6th generation fighter aircraft which will replace the Eurofighter Typhoon (in Italy and UK) and the Saab Gripen (in Sweden). Not much can be found about Tempest in the “Defence in a competitive age” report that followed the Integrated Review, here is an excerpt:
We are investing now to launch the next phase of the FCAS Acquisition Programme to design and deliver the Tempest Concept: innovative systems of optionally-crewed and autonomous systems to preserve our operational advantage long into the future. Tempest will exploit our unique industrial base to create a 6th generation combat air enterprise centred in the UK. This fully digital enterprise will transform delivery, achieving pace and lowering cost and disrupting traditional approaches to defence procurement.
As we already reported, the UK, Italy and Sweden signed a trilateral Future Combat Air System Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding on Dec. 21, 2020, which covers the cooperation for research, development and joint concepting of Tempest. The Tempest programme is currently among the priorities of the three governments, which are now working to obtain a widespread industry participation to bring the best expertise to work on the project. There were reports also about the UK looking at Japan to join the Tempest FCAS program and this was also confirmed in the MoD’s report:
We are deepening FCAS partnering with Italy and Sweden through an international Concept and Assessment Phase beginning this year and are exploring important cooperative opportunities with Japan. Combat Air will remain a key pillar of the UK’s global approach as we reinforce interoperability and cooperation with the US and strengthen our relationships with the Typhoon consortium in Europe and other like-minded nations.
Fantastic to visit @BAESystemsplc in Warton.
Our £24bn investment in security and defence will modernise our Armed Forces, creating jobs and securing our place as a science superpower. pic.twitter.com/lNInD0ibT7
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 22, 2021
Having said that, the most interesting thing that we noticed in the few photos and the short video release after the visit is the Tempest FCAS mockup. To be more specific, it is a particular from the mockup, as the aircraft was seen for the first time with an Italian Air Force low-visibility roundels beside the RAF ones, the same that were applied also on the Italian F-35s. This is a further confirmation of the Italian involvement in the program, even if it is not much advertised at home.
Strange enough, we can’t help but notice though that the Swedish Air Force roundels are missing. That is even more strange if we consider that Michael Christie, director of FCAS at BAE Systems, recently said that a collaborative working definition project concluded with Sweden and Saab in 2020 “was extremely successful”.
As @RAeSTimR has pointed out, this is an Italian low-viz roundel rather than a new UK one. Still, evidence if it were required that Sweden is not yet signed up as a partner on #Tempest. https://t.co/YIPhzEjHSj
— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) March 22, 2021
As reported by FlightGlobal, Christie said that the Tempest programme is on track to enter its concept and assessment phase later this year, with a contract expected by the summer. Based on the results of the research done during the initial technology development phase, the next phase will define the systems that will be part of FCAS, as multiple configurations are still being considered while looking to find the right balance between the various components.