Wallace woos allies in quest to share costs of Tempest
Defence Minister makes fighter jet appeal as he launches online version of Farnborough air show
BEN WALLACE, the Defence Secretary, issued an extraordinary appeal for more countries to join the UK’s Tempest programme to build a new fighter jet as he help launched the online version of the Farnborough air show.
Speaking over the internet after the landmark trade show was cancelled because of coronavirus, Mr Wallace urged other countries to join in the development programme for Britain’s next-generation warplane.
His remarks are likely to be seen as part of an effort by ministers to work more closely with allies and share the eye-watering costs of new defence kit. They come amid fears that the Armed Forces could be cut back sharply to save money, relegating the country to a mid-tier military power.
Mr Wallace said: “We are keen to see more international partners joins us on the flight path of discovery. This is your chance to share technology, experience and research and development costs, to strengthen existing alliances and help establish new ones.”
Italy and Sweden have already joined, the minister said. Ministers and defence staff have said they are in talks with other countries about Tempest, but have refused to give details of their identities. Japan, however, is understood to be the most interested.
If Tempest goes ahead as hoped, the stealth aircraft will enter service in 2035. It is likely to incorporate technologies such as artificial intelligence allowing the plane to fly with no pilot on board, as well as “swarms” of computer controlled drone wingmen.
Tempest was launched two years ago at Farnborough as a partnership between the state and leading aerospace companies such as BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce. A basic specification for the £2bn programmed is expected to be settled by the end of the year.
Mr Wallace also confirmed that seven more companies – Bombardier, Collins, GE, GKN, Martin-Baker, QinetiQ and Thales – have come on board. Swedish company Saab is involved too, developing future combat air systems.
Meanwhile, the UK Government announced £200m of grants for research projects run by the Aerospace Technology Institute, which will be matched by industry.
Ministers also gave more details of their ambitions to cut carbon emissions from air travel, with a bid to create a non-polluting airliner that can fly the Atlantic with zero carbon impact.