The hi-tech, “sixth generation” aircraft being developed by Britain in conjunction with Sweden will replace the ageing Typhoon (originally called the Eurofighter), and will be equipped with laser and hypersonic weapons. The plane will be accompanied into battle by a mini squadron of semi-autonomous drone-like “wingmen”. It has understandably be hailed as a “game changer” by industry experts. The four international companies leading the project BAE Systems, the UK arm of Leonardo of Italy, European missile maker MDBA, and Rolls Royce – collectively known as Team Tempest – are all stepping up recruitment in 2020 in order to finalise their business cases by December, with the total UK workforce set to more than double from 1,000 to 2,500 by 2021.
Detractors claim looming budget cuts mean the pioneering Tempest Fighter Jet project may have to be merged with the rival European scheme spearheaded by France and Germany.
This year is likely to see a wide-ranging defence review which will consider Britain’s place in the world after Brexit – with the Financial Times reporting the Ministry of Defence is facing a GBP15billion shortfall in its equipment budget over the next decade.
As such, the newspaper reports some experts are questioning whether the UK can actually afford such an ambitious project, despite partnerships with Italy and Sweden.
Team Tempest will ensure the UK has the capability to sit at the top table in an international collaborate programme
“Team Tempest will ensure the UK has the capability to sit at the top table in an international collaborate programme.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk last year, Mr Kennedy said: “We’re all hugely excited to be involved in Team Tempest.
“We want to make the Tempest as iconic as the Spitfire.
“This has the potential to be a revolutionary aircraft, a real game-changer.”
The suggestion is the project may need to merged with the rival Future Combat Air System being developed by France, Germany and Spain.
Privately executives in both projects have admitted there will be pressure to merge – but the longer they remain separate, the more difficult such a move would be.
However, Express.co.uk understands the MoD does not envisage any merger of the two projects.
Andrew Kennedy, strategic campaigns director in BAE Systems’ Air division, said: “We have to give the Government confidence we are working toward a viable international partnership.
“They have to be confident we are doing something affordable, capable and delivered on time.
“The plan is to introduce this ‘sixth generation’ combat aircraft into service in the mid-2030s, in time to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, which presently provides a fully manned capability for a number of air forces.”
A Leonardo spokesman told Express.co.uk today: “Work is proceeding at pace to meet the ambitious timescale for Tempest, which is expected to go into-service in 2035.
“Leonardo in the UK is already hard at work developing some of the advanced technologies which will be needed to face the threats of the future.”
Tempest is great news for engineering in the UK: it’s a fantastic career opportunity for current and future employees in all of the companies involved, both directly and through the supply chain.
A timeline of the Tempest Fighter Jet (Image: BAE)
“Leonardo employs around 7,000 people across the UK, 67 percent of whom hold highly skilled positions.”
Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, said of the project’s overall workforce: “To get this number of jobs this early, that is pretty significant.
“If you want back to the early 200s, BAE Systems would have had 3,000 people working on Typhoon.
“But at this stage of the game to have 2,500 research engineers, that is big.”
Tempest is regarded as crucial in order to secure the UK’s combat air sector, which is worth GBP6billion annually, and which has made up in excess of 80 percent of defence experts over the course of the last decade.
Neither the French nor the Germans are keen for the British to be involved, with
concerns about a repeat of the situation involving the A400M military transport aircraft, which has been beset by problems as a result of numerous demands from different partners.
One executive involved in the Future Combat Air System saying: “If we open the door to the British, the Scandinavians, the Italians, we will do another A400M and it will be a disaster.”
The hi-tech, "sixth generation" aircraft being developed by Britain in conjunction with Sweden will replace the ageing Typhoon (originally called the Eurofighter), and will be equipped with laser and hypersonic weapons. The plane will be accompanied into battle by a mini squadron of semi-autonomous drone-like "wingmen".