Richard Burton of the British Ministry of Defense did not provide specific information about the maiden flight, but said it was a low-observability aircraft.
The British Ministry of Defense announced on July 18 a “Flying Combat Air Demonstrator” (Flying Combat Air Demonstrator), which will take place over the next five years as part of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program Tempest.
This is the first time the British Ministry of Defense has provided an official update on the program since it was announced at the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) in 2018. According to the statement, the demonstrator will play “an important role in providing technology and design elements required to deliver Britain’s FCAS.”
“This flagship program is part of a set of innovative technologies being developed by Team Tempest. These concepts are designed to demonstrate and test the next generation of aerial capabilities, tools, procedures and techniques needed to ensure that the Tempest, the UK’s Future Air Combat System, will enter service by 2035,” he continued.
Speaking to reporters at the FIA on July 18, representatives of the ministry and partner companies (BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce) confirmed the news ahead of the ministry’s official statement.
The ministry’s program manager, Richard Burton, was unable to provide specific details about the aircraft’s maiden flight in 2027. However, he confirmed that the flight will involve a low-observability aircraft, although its technologies and formation remain “highly sensitive information”.
“The first flight is one of many achievements that the FCAS program will achieve,” he said.
Burton said the UK is carrying out an analysis of the continuation of FCAS in collaboration with Italy and Japan so that other key industrial options become available. More details are expected to be revealed by the end of the year.
“This is a very important step for the program. It is going better than planned,” he added.
There is a “tremendous possibility” he assured before referring to “shared values and opportunities” between military, government and industrial partners.
“We are discussing the future direction at the moment and decisions will be made later in the year. We have a range of options and are looking at different alternatives,” he continued.
Burton also confirmed that Sweden remains a “very close” partner in the FCAS program, but also confirmed that the UK ministry is “talking to other international partners who are interested in what we are doing.”
However, he declined to say anything about the future Franco-German FCAS (SCAF) program, concluding, “we have a solid foundation and we are open to discussions as time goes on.”
BAE Systems also presented a color mock-up of its Tempest demonstrator to the FIA, although company representatives confirmed it did not represent the aircraft expected to fly within the next five years. The demo product has been in development for several years, he added.
However, the head of future air combat systems at BAE Systems confirmed that the demonstrator is a “low observability” aircraft and that the first flight will involve a manned aircraft flying at supersonic speeds.
“The planning is done right,” he said. “We’re learning what it means to design and develop in the digital world.”
According to BAE Systems, the British Royal PA and the company’s pilot who have performed more than 100 hours in digital flight tests, “this is a new way of working, using mock-up-based systems and fifty patents produced for realistic and tangible results as we look to head towards an operationally capable program in the 2030s,” the official said.
BAE Systems currently runs 19 programs designed to support the design and development of the demonstrator product.
Italy’s Leonardo will provide the integration of sensors on the aircraft.
France’s MBDA continues to develop future weapons and is working with UK management on operational development and sales. The British side requires “quick and cheap solutions that can be easily integrated.”
They stated that ammunition should be lined up from an internal weapons base.
Finally, Rolls-Royce’s head of future programs, Alex Zino, confirmed that the FCAS engine remains in the assembly stage.
“We are still working on making the integration less risky and expanding the power requirements,” he said.
New design layout of Tempest sixth generation fighter shown at Farnborough Air Show. The differences on the previously one looks are to be on air intakes, fuselage, engine nozzles and mostly the wing with new crawled arrow design tail connection on rudder.
Today is Tempest day.😁
— Ciro Nappi (@CiroNappi6)
July 18, 2022