Tempest fighter jet

UK's ‘next-generation’ combat air demonstrator to reach the skies in 2035

Image credit: BAE-Systems

The UK's defence sector is expected to reach new heights, with the Secretary of State for Defence announcing that the first flying combat air demonstrator in a generation - designed and developed in the UK - will soon be ready to fly.

By 2035, a new flying combat air demonstrator is expected to take off.

Designed by the Ministry of Defence, alongside a team from BAE Systems, the demonstrator is expected to play a critical role in proving the technology and design principles needed to deliver the UK’s Future Combat Air System, according to the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace.

"The design and development of the demonstrator aircraft represent an important milestone, showcasing the success and talent of our engineers, programmers and software developers," Wallace said. "This programme will go on to attract opportunities for many more great minds and talent from across the UK."

The flagship project is part of a suite of novel technologies designed to demonstrate and test the next-generation combat air skills, tools, processes and techniques needed to ensure that Tempest, the UK’s Future Combat Air System, achieves its goal of "delivering significant economic benefits to the nation, securing high-value skills and careers and contributing to prosperity in many UK regions".

Launched in 2018, alongside the UK’s Combat Air Strategy, Tempest will incorporate a host of intertwined open-architecture technology, a result of the borrowing of human-machine interfaces and simulation technology from the gaming and automotive worlds.

“We recognise our responsibility in providing trusted sovereign combat air capability," said Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems Chief Executive. “The demonstrator is an exciting once-in-a-generation opportunity providing experienced and young engineers alike a chance to contribute to an endeavour which really matters to our national defence and security.”

The demonstrator will allow researchers and pilots to test the innovative technologies that will be implemented in Tempest, characterised by the use of ever-improving sensors, data management, connectivity and autonomy. It will also help retain, further develop and stimulate the next generation of skills and expertise required to deliver the ambitious programme.

The programme is expected to deliver significant and wide-ranging benefits to all UK regions, making an estimated £26.2bn contribution to the UK economy from now until 2050 and supporting 21,000 jobs from 2026 until the middle of the century, with potentially more beyond that date, according to a report commissioned by BAE Systems and authored by PwC.

The vision, according to the UK's largest defence firm, is that of a future system that will connect across air, but also across land, sea, cyber and, increasingly, space. 

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