Sweden has become the first nation to join forces with the UK on its Tempest future combat air system (FCAS) project, with the pair having signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the initiative.
“Discussions between industries and governments had been ongoing since July 2018,” the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) says. “A joint government feasibility report was completed in April 2019, informed by a joint report from UK and Swedish Industry.”
Approved in May, the collaboration was formalised during an 18 July signing event involving UK defence secretary Penny Mordaunt and Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist. The pact “commits both governments to work on a joint combat air development and acquisition programme, including the development of new concepts to meet both nations’ future requirements”, the MoD says.
Speaking at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) on 19 July, UK minister of defence procurement Stuart Andrew said the agreement represents a “shared, ambitious vision for future combat air systems, lays firm foundations for collaboration, and invites others to participate in our discussions. It strengthens our collective defence,” he adds.
“We are now two nations in Tempest, and I am confident that there will be more,” says Royal Air Force (RAF) chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier.
Gripen manufacturer Saab will not join the Team Tempest industry grouping, but work in cooperation with BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce, plus the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, “to scope out joint development and acquisition programmes for both nations”, Andrew says.
The Swedish company says it “will contribute with its experience of advanced technology development, system integration of complete combat air systems and related areas including sensors, missile systems and support”.
A one-year study phase will conclude in “Autumn 2020”, Hultqvist says, prior to expected further approvals being sought to advance the cooperation.
Early work will include “development of a joint acquisition roadmap, identifying technologies to spiral from Gripen and [Eurofighter] Typhoon onto an FCAS, and identifying early opportunities to insert advanced technologies onto Gripen and Typhoon”, the MoD says. Cost modelling work will also be conducted.
“For the UK, the next decision to be made is in December 2020, following submission of the outline business case,” the MoD says.
“To develop cutting-edge technology is time- and resource-consuming: it poses great challenges to any nation aspiring to develop an operational advantage,” Hultqvist said at RIAT. “Both the United Kingdom and Sweden intend to remain at the forefront of combat air, developing future capabilities to meet our national security objectives.”
“The FCAS feasibility studies will strongly benefit the coming and current versions of the Gripen – and of course, all of our Gripen partners,” says Swedish air force chief of staff General Mats Helgusson.
Leonardo UK managing director Norman Bone tells FlightGlobal that he hopes Italy will be the next nation to join the Tempest activity. “We see this as absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.
Meanwhile, Bone reveals that Leonardo has selected 2Excel Aviation to perform flight testing in support of its part of the Tempest activity. The company will operate an adapted Boeing 757 as part of the process.