MIlitary Update News : The U.K.’s New ‘Tempest’ Stealth Fighter Project Already Faces Serious Challenges
The U.K. Ministry of Defense has unveiled new plans for a new stealth fighter jet called Tempest at the biennial Farnborough Airshow. The announcement coincides with the release of a new Combat Air Strategy, which focuses heavily on sustaining and expanding the United Kingdom’s domestic defense industrial base and international cooperation in that sector, but there are already questions about the project’s viability given the country’s increasingly uncertain political and economic future.
Underscoring the emphasis on engagement with the private sector, U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson offered details about Tempest and the country’s new aerial warfare strategy in front of a full-size notional mockup of the jet at BAE’s booth at Farnborough on July 16, 2018. The U.K.-headquartered firm will lead “Team Tempest,” which also includes engine-maker Rolls-Royce, Italian defense contractor Leonardo, and the European missile consortium MBDA.
“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way,” Williamson said. “British defense industry is a huge contributor to U.K. prosperity, creating thousands of jobs in a thriving advanced manufacturing sector, and generating a U.K. sovereign capability that is the best in the world.”
Though Tempest’s design isn’t anywhere close to firm, slides Team Tempest showed at the event described a number of increasingly common basic requirements for an advanced fighter jet design. Though described as a sixth-generation design, what BAE Systems and its partners have shown so far looks very much like what many countries are looking at for new fifth-generation types. The mockup and concept art show a stealthy, modified delta-wing planform with a pair of vertical small, outwardly-canted vertical stabilizers.
The aircraft will have two engines hidden away deep inside the airframe to help keep its radar and infrared signatures as low as possible. Rolls-Royce says they are working on an engine design that will leverage composite materials and advanced manufacturing processes to be lightweight, have better thermal management, and still keep costs low. The powerplants will have digital controls for more precise power management and to readily provide maintenance personnel with information about whether components need replacement and other aspects of the system’s “health.”
Tempest will have a wide array of sensors, including advanced radars and multi-spectral cameras, as well as unspecified data links and communications equipment. As with other advanced fighter jet designs, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the goal is to provide the pilot with as complete a picture of the battlespace as possible, allow the jet’s the to share that information with other friendly forces, and let the pilot pull additional data from other assets in the air, on the ground, and even potentially in space.
The United Kingdom is looking for a significant amount of modularity and reconfigurable components in the aircraft, too. The jets will have a modular payload bay, which could accommodate weapons – including offensive and defensive directed energy weapons – additional sensors, electronic warfare suites, or other systems to allow it to perform multiple roles. This could allow different aircraft in a single flight to carry only one type of system, with sensor-packing planes locating targets and feeding that information via their data links to others in the formation loaded with a maximum amount of weaponry.
(Video/Thumbnail Picture just For Ilustration)
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