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UK ‘Team Tempest’ FCAS Programme – Moving Forward Apace By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.





As a vital part of future UK national security and ensuring that the UK defence industry maintains the technological competence necessary in order that as a nation we secure future military freedom of action and retain a globally competitive lead role in future combat air system development, ‘Team Tempest’ is about the UK investing in the required future concepts, technologies and capabilities we need if we are to succeed in the ambitions we have set.

The UK government which last year committed an initial £2 billion to the design and development of a next-generation combat aircraft operating at the cutting edge of technological innovation is behind ‘Team Tempest’ all the way. Part of the Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) Technology Initiative ‘Team Tempest is moving forward apace and is expected to submit an outline business case to the MOD before the end of the year.

The UK needs Tempest and the importance of its development not only in regard of maintaining sovereign capability is also built around the need for future prosperity and retaining the leading position that the UK has in the combat air sector. As a programme that is already delivering real insight, technology maturation and skills development and high- level jobs, ‘Team Tempest’ is of huge importance to the nation, our future defence capability and our future prosperity. 

As the most important and significant of all air domain programmes that the UK is currently engaged ‘Team Tempest’ brings together the UK’s world leading industry players and sovereign capabilities across four key future Combat Air Strategy technology areas: advanced combat air systems and integration (BAE Systems); advanced power and propulsion systems (Rolls-Royce); advanced sensors, electronics and avionics (Leonardo); and advanced weapon systems (MBDA).

Retaining sovereign capability is vital and it is only by investing in future concepts, technologies and capabilities that we as a nation can succeed. Affordability and exportability are built into the concept throughout and equally important is that ‘Team Tempest’ is also about creating future opportunity for national success, supporting the supply chain, investing in skills and apprentices that we need. It is indeed a perfect example of how defence can play in future economic prosperity  

On what is coincidently the 51st anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and having uttered the now immortal words of this being a “small step for man but a huge leap for mankind” the announcement by Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence in regard of an additional seven companies (Thales UK, QinetiQ, GKN Aerospace, Martin Baker, Bombardier Belfast, GE Aviation and Collins Aerospace) joining the ‘Team Tempest’ programme is hugely significant. Representing a breadth of UK innovation as they do, each company has signed agreements to progress opportunities working on future combat air concepts that underpin technologies across the ‘Team Tempest’ programme.

Importantly, Mr. Wallace noted in his interview remarks this morning that he anticipated a major shift toward the future being about unmanned military aircraft capability.  

‘Team Tempest’ is a UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and UK industry co-funded technology initiative put together to develop sixth-generation fighter aircraft capability through a partnership approach. Launched by the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office, as part of the MOD Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI), ‘Team Tempest’ is a collaboration between BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the UK Ministry of Defence working together to develop game-changing technologies at pace and in an affordable manner and that will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of global combat air technology development.

The technology initiative announced this morning will help to ensure that UK industry maintains the technological competence necessary to retain military freedom of action and be able to play a lead role in future combat air system development.

Separately, following on from the UK and Sweden having signed an MOU on FCAS cooperation in July last year, and emphasising the importance of both FCAS and the UK to its own future, the Swedish based  company Saab which joined the programme a year ago announced the intention to invest £50 million building a hub in the UK to support its engagement in the programme.

Announcing the planned investment, Micael Johansson, President and CEO of Saab said “Combat Air is a key component of Sweden’s defence policy and it is defined as a national security interest. Saab’s FCAS strategy ensures that the technology is in place to support a long-term future air capability and also to support continuous upgrades of Gripen E for decades to come”. Italy is another country that last September announced a Declaration of Intent’ with the UK to join the Tempest programme.    

In response to the technology initiatives announced by Secretary of State this morning, Dave Holmes, Manufacturing Director for BAE Systems’ Air sector, said:

“We are delighted to have signed the first phase of these new agreements, which are transforming our traditional relationships with partners. We are seeking opportunities to widen the ‘Team Tempest’ project and bring the very best of UK capability and expertise, from both inside and outside of defence. They will work alongside us as we seek to develop the generation-defining combat air capability which will help safeguard the security of our nation and our allies to the end of this century. In addition, by developing the wider industry team, we will help contribute to the retention, growth and investment in a wider world-class UK skills base. Collaborations, with some of the brightest and best across the country, show that Tempest is becoming a truly national endeavour and we are delivering on our promise to take new approaches to drive significant pace and efficiency into the programme.”

‘Team Tempest’ is a very significant programme for the UK and it is built on a can do, will do approach. A partnership between government, military, industry and international partners all of whom are determined to succeed. Industry, along with the Royal Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office led by Air Commodore Jez Holmes, have already achieved a vast amount in a very short period of time. I for one am in no doubt that the government fully understands the importance of what ‘Team Tempest’ means to the UK, not only to jobs and maintaining necessary skills, but in the potential that the development has in terms of future prosperity.  

CHW (London – 20th July 2020)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon



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