The UK’s leading industry players and Ministry of Defence played a great hand at the Farnborough air show, with a clear statement of intent that they will not be left behind as their French and German counterparts strive to create a future combat air system.
By laying out not only the contents of its first Combat Air Strategy, but doing so in front of a full-scale model of a stunning concept for a notional “sixth-generation” fighter, the UK delivered a crystal-clear message: while it intends to work with partners – maybe including Berlin and Paris – it is only prepared to do so on its own terms.
While the displayed Tempest platform is of course unlikely to see operational duty as a replacement for the Eurofighter Typhoon, it is far more than a hollow model. Rather, it is the representation of a broad-ranging technology development activity that will span some 50-60 demonstrations on aspects including low-observable materials, advanced propulsion systems and futuristic cockpits. Early work already being performed dates back almost three years.
Many international delegations were invited to see Tempest mock-ups at Farnborough and within a mystery marquee at the Royal International Air Tattoo, immediately before the main industry event of the year.
What officials from nations such as Japan, Sweden and Turkey saw cannot have failed to impress.