Tempest: Future Aircraft Programme 'On Track'

The "concept and assessment phase" for the Tempest programme is due to be launched later this year, according to a defence minister.

The next stage of the Tempest fighter jet programme is "on track", according to a defence minister.

The target for the sixth-generation future combat aircraft to be operational by the 2030s remains, with the "concept and assessment phase" due to be launched later this year.

"The UK signed a trilateral MOU with Italy and Sweden in December 2020 to enable joint work on the Future Combat Air System," Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin stated, answering a question by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey.

Mr Healey is awaiting answers to further questions submitted regarding where the Tempest aircraft will be built.

Watch our documentary looking at the Tempest project in more detail here.

The future fighter jet is due to eventually replace the Typhoon jets.

Defence Select Committee chair Tobias Ellwood asked Mr Quin what plans there are for Tempest to operate at sea.

"The UK's Combat Air strategy operates across a broad force mix," the Minister for Defence Procurement replied.

"The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), seeks to replace Typhoon once it retires from service and provide an international next-generation Combat Air System, and high tempo military capabilities for decades to come."

Watch: What will it be like inside a future fighter jet?

The defence minister added that the F-35B Lightning aircraft currently carry out the UK's maritime combat air role from HMS Queen Elizabeth and "will continue to do so for the foreseeable future".

In March, the Defence Command Paper reiterated a £2 billion investment by the UK into the project over the next four years.

Following the announcement, Mr Quin said the Tempest programme will allow the UK to "stay in control of the air" for decades.

What is the Tempest programme?

The Tempest project is working on creating the UK's sixth-generation fighter jet, with mind-reading flight systems and highly advanced artificial intelligence among the concepts being explored.

It is also looking at the use of a software reconfigurable wearable cockpit, using the Striker II helmet.

This could see the Tempest aircraft fitted with no physical dial or screen in the cockpit.

Instead, the helmet allows the pilot to see the outside world and displays information in a virtual 3D landscape overlay of the outside seen through the visor, as well as physical objects which appear in reality.

The UK is working with both Italy and Sweden on the programme's development.

Cover image: Tempest combat aircraft (Picture: MOD).