|BAE Systems conceptual illustration|
|Role||Sixth-generation jet fighter|
|National origin||United Kingdom|
|Introduction||Planned for 2035|
The BAE Systems Tempest is a proposed fighter aircraft concept that is under development in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Air Force, Swedish Air Force and the Italian Air Force (AMI). It is being developed under the Future Combat Air System (UK) programme by a consortium known as "Team Tempest", consisting of the UK Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo S.p.A. and MBDA. The aircraft is intended to enter service from 2035 replacing the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in service with the RAF and AMI and the JAS 39 Gripen in Swedish service. Two billion pounds will be spent by the British government on the project by 2025.
The document describes combat air as "An aircraft, manned or unmanned, whose prime function is to conduct air-to-air and/or air-to-surface combat operations in a hostile and/or contested environment, whilst having the ability to concurrently conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare and command and control tasks."
On 16 July 2018, the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson introduced the Tempest programme at the Farnborough Airshow as part of the Combat Air Strategy. It will be a sixth-generation jet fighter incorporating several new technologies, swarming drones, directed-energy weapons and hypersonic weapons. The RAF's Second World War Hawker Tempest fighter also followed a Typhoon.
On 19 July 2019, Sweden and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore ways of jointly developing sixth-generation air combat technologies. Italy announced its involvement in Team Tempest on 10 September 2019, during DSEI 2019. The Statement of Intent was signed between the UK participant bodies and Italian participant companies (Leonardo Italy, Elettronica, Avio Aero and MBDA Italy). This was confirmed by the signing of a trilateral MoU by Italy, Sweden and the UK on 21 December 2020, "defining general principles for co-operation on an equal basis between the three countries". In 2019, India and Japan were also invited to join the project.
At the virtual Farnborough Airshow in July 2020, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced seven new companies were joining the Team Tempest consortium: GEUK, GKN, Collins Aerospace, Martin Baker, QinetiQ, Bombardier in Belfast (now Spirit Aerosystems) and Thales UK, along with UK universities and SMEs. Together the companies will develop more than 60 technology prototypes and demonstration activities. So far the programme has employed 1,800 and is expected to increase to 2,500 by 2021. Also announced was an initial investment of £50m in the project by Saab and the opening of a Future Combat Air Systems centre in the UK.
On 29 July 2021, the project moved into the Concept and Assessment phase, with BAE Systems being awarded a £250 million contract to advance the design. In August 2021 Italy announced its intention to invest €2 billion by 2035 starting with a €20 million contribution in 2021.
In September 2021, a model of a modified Boeing 757 airliner, named the Excalibur, was showcased at DSEI 2021. Excalibur will be used as a test bed for Tempest's avionics and sensors and will be converted from an airliner by 2Excel. According to the Royal Aeronautical Society, the aircraft will be the only stealth fighter testbed outside the United States.
Tempest will be able to fly unmanned, and use swarming technology to control drones. It will incorporate artificial intelligence deep learning and carry directed-energy weapons. The aircraft will have a Cooperative Engagement Capability which is the ability to share data and messages with other aircraft and coordinate actions. Tempest will feature an adaptive cycle engine and a virtual cockpit shown on a pilot's helmet-mounted display. A generator that delivers "unprecedented levels" of electrical power has also been developed for the aircraft.
The aircraft has a slightly raised rear fuselage section, to accommodate “S-shaped” ducting behind its twin engine inlets, to reduce its frontal radar cross section.