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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Tempest: Could We See the First 6th Generation Fighter This Week?

Tempest Artist Rendition. Image Credit: Industry Handout.
Tempest Artist Rendition. Image Credit: Industry Handout.

Since its inaugural event in 1948, the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow has become one of the largest trade exhibitions for the aerospace and defense industries. The bi-annual event, which takes place at Farnborough Airfield 50 km to the southwest of London, now sees attendance surpassing 200,000 visitors.

Over the past 74 years, many famous aircraft have made their debut at the show including the Vickers VC10, the Concorde, the Eurofighter, and even the F-35.

After the in-person show was canceled in 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, and only held virtually, this year is expected to be quite a show. There are now reports the UK could pull out all the stops with something truly special.

“There is likely to see a number of milestone announcements and updates as it is the biggest air show being held since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Harry Boneham, aerospace analyst at international analytics firm GlobalData. “Organizers have chosen to tackle a number of key themes and challenges that the industry will face going forward, with the issue of sustainability in aerospace taking centre-stage. Major manufacturers such as Boeing will be displaying their advancements in this area, with Boeing unveiling its sustainable aviation data modeling tool, Cascade. Smaller firms such as Eviation, which produces electric-propulsion aircraft, will also be in attendance.”

The Farnborough International Airshow show opened on Monday and will run through Friday.

Will We See the Tempest?

However, all eyes could be on what the British military is willing to share this week about its sixth-generation fighter – the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), also known as the Tempest.

“In the defense space, it is likely that updates and information will be given regarding the UK’s Tempest fighter jet program by Team Tempest member BAE Systems,” added Boneham. “The move is an encouraging sign for the UK’s domestic aerospace industry, with the demonstrator being the first in a generation designed and developed in the UK. It will be a vital steppingstone on the path to an eventual platform, providing data and insights that will shape the final FCAS aircraft and signals an ambition to push UK firms to the forefront of the global industry.”

According to a GlobalData forecast, investment in the program is expected to stand at $11.3 billion from the UK in the years 2022-2032. In addition, the UK, Swedish, Italian and Japanese partners in the program could share research and development (R&D) costs while developing new cutting-edge technologies.

“For instance, Rolls-Royce has developed a novel gas turbine demonstrator engine, Orpheus, while Leonardo UK and Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric have agreed on the concept for a radar technology demonstrator called JAGUAR,” said Boneham.

Bring the Jobs

The Tempest was first unveiled by the British Ministry of Defence four years ago in July 2018, and at the time the British government announced that it would spend £2bn to develop the aircraft between then and 2025. The goal of the program has been to deliver a capable, flexible and affordable system by the mid-2030s, providing military, economic, and industrial benefits to the UK as well as its international program partners.

Supporters of the program have cited the job creation that the Tempest program could access.

“In terms of UK jobs, the program promises to not only provide highly skilled jobs for experienced professionals in the industry, but also for early career individuals,” said Boneham. “Around 2,500 skilled professionals are employed on the FCAS program across the UK and this figure will only grow as development progresses. The program is also being used as a catalyst to stimulate the next generation. Partners within Team Tempest, including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo UK, and MDBA UK, will collaborate on early careers recruitment for the program, with a goal of 1,300 new starters by the end of 2023.”

The UK government has announced that it will work with Japan on plans for its next-generation Tempest fighter, and it could allow London to handle the European export market, while Japan would focus on the Asian market.


Tempest 6th Generation Stealth Fighter. Image Credit/Artist Rendering from BAE Systems.


Artist Rendering of Tempest Fighter.

“(UK) Defence Secretary Benjamin Wallace highlighted the involvement of Japan in the joint development of sixth-generation technologies,” said Boneham. “This lends credence to reporting last week that Japan’s domestic sixth-generation fighter development program, F-X, may be merged with Tempest.”

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.