The United Kingdom’s Tempest next-generation combat aircraft project is gaining another partner following the September 10 signing of a statement of intent between Italy and Britain. The SOI – inked by the head of the U.K. Defense Equipment and Support (DE&S) office Simon Bollom and Lt. Gen. Nicolo Falsaperna, Italy’s Secretary General of Defense – was framed by the U.K. Ministry of Defence in its September 11 release as a broad pledge between the two countries to cooperate on developing a combat air capability relationship.
Both countries have worked together in the past on combat aircraft development and support through the Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon programs and the U.S.-led F-35 program.
In 'worst kept secret' news (after Sweden joining earlier in the year), #Italy joins #Tempest with national and industrial statements of intent at #DSEI2019. Leonardo, MBDA Italy, Elettronica & Avio Aero join team to "maintain [combat] advantage for a generation" – Leonardo CEO. pic.twitter.com/hT3rMN9qt1
— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) September 11, 2019
The alignment in aerospace technology-sharing between Britain and Italy comes as France, Germany and Spain are pooling their own efforts to build a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) involving a next-generation manned fighter (NGF).
The British Tempest fighter concept involves a twin-engine, delta-winged, low-observable fighter that the U.K. intends ultimately to use to replace the Royal Air Force (RAF) fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft by the 2040s.
The initiative is being led by the “Team Tempest” industry consortium in conjunction with government agencies including Defense Equipment & Support (DE&S) and the RAF’s Rapid Capability Office. The industrial partners include BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, the U.K. branch of Leonardo, and missile manufacturer MBDA. Now with Italy involved, Leonardo will bring the full weight of its industrial arm to the table, bringing in tow other Italian companies such as Avio Aero and Elettronica.
British defence companies have agreed to work with Italy to develop the Tempest aircraft programme ✈️
Here's what we were told about the project and its capabilities when it was unveiled 👇https://t.co/wqZ1MXiUu7
— Forces News (@ForcesNews) September 11, 2019
Sweden joined as an international partner with Team Tempest in July when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Like Italy, Britain has some experience working with Sweden on fighters, as BAE – in its earlier incarnation as British Aerospace – helped produce and market early versions of Saab’s Gripen combat aircraft. Sweden is viewing its partnership, initially at least, as a chance to participate in cutting-edge technological research while supporting and growing the performance capability of the latest fighter in Saab’s production chain, the Gripen E.
To date, however, Sweden has not formally joined the Tempest program, but is instead cooperating on the wider British Combat Air Strategy (CAS) that includes Tempest. A national decision regarding full participation in Tempest is to be made in the third quarter of 2020.
The Team Tempest joint program office is spearheading development of a new design by 2025. This design and development phase is being underwritten by GBP2 billion ($2.6 billion) in British government funding.
But bringing aboard international partners helps defray the overall developmental costs while adding technological know-how and insight. More importantly, it provides the aircraft with potential buyers , which would help bring about economy of scale in the production phase of the fighter program.