Italy has become the newest member of the UK’s Tempest sixth-generation fighter program, signing a government-to-government agreement to commit to the development of the aircraft, as well as electing to collaborate with British companies to garner industrial participation. This comes just two months after the Swedish government signed a similar agreement to contribute to the UK’s efforts, representing the transition that Tempest has made from a British endeavor to a pan-European one.
Tempest’s development is being organized on both government and industrial levels, the latter of which is under the so-called Team Tempest moniker. It involves the UK Ministry of Defence’s Rapid Capabilities Office being teamed with BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce, and MBDA to develop the industrial and technological requirements for the program, and a statement of intent signing on September 11 will now lead to Leonardo Italy, Elettronica, Avio Aero, and MBDA Italy joining the cause. This followed the signing of an agreement between the two governments on the previous day, which will result in Italy helping the UK in defining the requirements of this next-generation fighter.
Launched in July 2018 during the Farnborough Airshow, the Tempest program fulfils requirements outlined in the UK’s Combat Air Strategy, an initiative that was released in parallel last year. During the launch, the British government and its associated industry communicated that while the project serves to bolster the domestic defense industry capabilities and showcase to the world—and more importantly Europe—that it could develop this alone, it also stressed that it would be seeking partners to participate in Tempest along the way.
No small feat, the project has already been allocated £2 billion ($2.48 billion) in funding to develop the requirements, generating jobs across the UK and contributing to the government’s prosperity agenda that aims to bolster economic growth. The announcement regarding Italy’s participation came during the DSEI exhibition being held in London, at which UK defense secretary Ben Wallace praised the collaborative approach to the project.
“I’m pleased that we’ve signed a statement of intent with Italy who, alongside Sweden, will support joint working on the Tempest and our future combat air strategy,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with my Italian and Swedish counterparts, as well as others, to put the Tempest program into hyper-drive and take global Britain into the stratosphere.”
Industrial partner MBDA also used DSEI to present further weapons options for Tempest, having already shown a range of deep strike weapons concepts at the Paris Airshow, which are envisaged for potential use by both the Tempest and the Franco-German-Spanish Next Generation Fighter. Shown at DSEI was a hard-kill defensive aid system (HK-DAS) concept that employs lightweight “Micromissiles” to track, target, and intercept incoming missiles in contested environments. The Micromissile could also form the basis of a precision close air support weapon that could be carried in large numbers. Two more concepts concern within visual range air-to-air missiles (WVRAAMs), loosely based on the ASRAAM weapon. One is a shorter missile intended for tandem carriage within the Tempest’s weapons bay, while another is a longer, larger-caliber weapon with great range and higher performance.
Existing weapons such as the Meteor long range air-to-air and Spear precision attack missiles will also be used for the aircraft, the latter of which was shown at the show in an electronic warfare configuration that acts as a stand-in jammer, the result of work between MBDA and Leonardo.