Rob Davies — The Guardian July 16, 2018
The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has unveiled plans for a new RAF fighter jet, the Tempest, which will eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Speaking at the Farnborough airshow, Williamson unveiled a model of the sixth-generation fighter jet the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expects to emerge from its new combat air strategy, designed to maintain the UK’s status as a so-called “tier one” military power after Brexit.
“This is a strategy to keep control of the air, both at home and abroad, to remain a global leader in the sector,” Williamson said.
He said he wanted the Tempest to be flying alongside the existing fleet of Typhoons and the US-made F-35s by 2035.
The government said it would spend £2bn to develop the aircraft between now and 2025, using money set aside in 2015 for future combat air technologies.
The jet will potentially be able to operate unmanned, according to plans released by the MoD, and will have next-generation technology on board designed to cope with modern threats.
This will include “swarming” technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to hit its targets, as well as directed energy weapons (DEW), which used concentrated bursts of laser, microwave or particle beam energy to inflict damage.
Tempest will be built by a consortium composed of the British defence firm BAE Systems, the engine-maker Rolls-Royce, the Italian aerospace company Lombardo and the pan-European missile manufacturer MBDA.
However, there will be no confirmation on the phalanx of suppliers required to build the jet until 2025, with operational capability due to follow a decade after that.
Williamson said the government’s combat air strategy would help ensure the UK was a world leader in the combat air sector, which supports 18,000 UK jobs.
“The British defence industry is a huge contributor to UK prosperity, creating thousands of jobs in a thriving advanced manufacturing sector and generating a UK sovereign capability that is the best in the world,” he said.