As it edges ever closer toward the all-important signing off of the concept and assessment phase by government and industry and that will lead on to the formal launch by the UK and its international partners of the 6th-generation combat jet development programme, and having myself spoken to a number of those closely involved, it is very pleasing to report that the ‘Team Tempest’ development phase is not only on-track but also that those involved are now readying themselves for the next stage of the international programme to jointly develop and deliver what will undoubtedly be world leading future combat air capability.
Tempest is an exciting and ambitious multi-decade programme, one that is not only vital for UK defence and national security but also one that will maintain critical skills that the UK needs and in supporting sovereign freedoms and capability. Tempest will not only provide the Royal Air Force and our allies with highly advanced military capability within a fast changing and increasingly complex era of data driven battlespace but will also play an important role helping the UK to be a leader within the development of digital battlefield technologies.
Forging collaborative, enduring and strategic industrial partnerships has long been fundamental to the success of the UK’s Combat Air sector. Tempest has from its origins been a partnership that not only brings together four major international defence equipment manufacturers, each of whom has significant investment in the UK, working together for the self-same ends developing world leading next generation future combat air capability, but importantly, this is a partnership that from the outset has included the Ministry of Defence.
Initial work on the Tempest programme was formally launched in July 2018 with the UK government agreeing initial funding and four leading industry partners, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the Ministry of Defence forming the ‘Team Tempest’ partnership in order to examine the developing technology options and requirements for a next generation Future Combat Air System.
With the governments of Italy and Sweden signing a trilateral memorandum of understanding with the UK government in order to strengthen collaboration between the three nations in December 2020, Tempest is a very much an international collaborative development partnership – one that comprises three nations made up of the leading UK defence companies. It is widely anticipated that other nations will also join the existing collaborative programme in due course.
With initial operating capability set for 2035 there is of course still a very long way to go but knowledge that the initial phase of the programme is on track provides a very important confidence boost for all involved.
The crucial importance of the Tempest programme was highlighted recently in an independent report produced by PwC the former Price Waterhouse and which confirmed that the economic impact of the Tempest programme will be felt in every region of the UK, supporting an average of 21,000 jobs a year, with 70% of the programme’s value generated in the North West, South West and East of England.
The Tempest programme is expected to generate long-term high value employment, with productivity per worker 78% higher than the national average. The independent PwC report which BAE Systems commissioned on behalf of the Team Tempest partners viewed that the programme would:
Make an estimated £26.2 billion contribution to the UK economy between 2021 and 2050
Support on average 21,000 jobs per year, from development to operational service (2026-2050)
Create high productivity employment with an average GVA per worker of £101,000, 78% higher than the UK national average and 42% higher than the country’s manufacturing average
Support significant benefits across regional economies.
Importantly, the PwC research outlined that the scale of the Tempest programme is very significant and is expected to deliver wide-ranging benefits to the UK through stimulating investment in new technologies and importantly, promoting critical skills and capabilities that ensure the UK can continue to operate at the forefront of world-leading technology.
Tempest will stimulate research and development across all regions of the UK, particularly those regions most in need and over many future decades will by its very nature generate extensive economic benefits. Without doubt, Tempest plays extremely well into the UK national prosperity agenda just as it also supports the UK Government’s levelling up priorities.
To that end, combat air activities of the four ‘Team Tempest’ industrial partners as a whole is expected to contribute £100 billion to the UK economy and support 62,000 jobs per year between 2021 and 2050.
Tempest will make up an increasing share of the industrial partners’ UK combat air activities and that of their supply chains, rising from around 12% today to nearly 50% of economic contribution by 2050. Tempest is this a crucial element of the aerospace and defence industry’s ongoing prosperity.
Working collaboratively with UK industry, Team Tempest partners have from the start embraced an agile approach, adopting new digital working practices in order to deliver technologically advanced capabilities and processes that will not only provide unsurpassed military combat air capability but that will also drive efficiency and increase productivity.
Team Tempest partners are already engaged with more than 600 suppliers, SMEs and academic institutions across the UK and which, apart from providing direct input to the programme will also deliver benefits beyond the defence sector and to future employment.
The Tempest programme is already a magnet to attract engineers and technicians and a place for young people to build their long-term careers. I understand that there are already more than 2,000 people employed on the programme by UK industry and the MoD.
Accounting for around 80% of UK defence export sales the combat air sector is vital to the national economy. Tempest is a vital part of the UK’s economic future – a once in a generation science and technology project that is not only crucial to the UK’s defence and future security but also to the economy through retention and development of critical engineering and technical skillsets, innovation and technology development and also through the potential of exports.
The next few months will be a very busy period for all those involved in Team Tempest and I suspect there will be a number of additional announcements made later during the summer. Tempest is not only needed as a vital future air capability element be it manned or unmanned, but it is also crucial to maintaining UK sovereign capability.
Importantly this is a partnership with industry that includes the MOD as a partner. As a collaborative partnership Tempest is leading the way in respect of next generation combat jet capability development. It is also leading the way in rebuilding and retaining vital UK sovereign capability, supply chain, skills retention and in putting the UK back into a position it needs to be in the future.
CHW (London – 14th June 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785