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A jet flying in the sky Description automatically generated with low confidence

Team Tempest
The BAE Systems Tempest is a proposed sixth-generation jet fighter aircraft under development in the United Kingdom for the Royal Air Force (RAF). It is being developed under the Future Combat Air System (UK) programme by a consortium known as “Team Tempest”, which includes the Ministry of DefenceBAE SystemsRolls-RoyceLeonardo S.p.A., MBDA and Saab. The aircraft is intended to enter service in 2035, gradually replacing the Eurofighter Typhoon in service with the RAF. £2 billion will be spent by the British government on the project by 2025.[1] Progress is on track for a prototype to emerge in the mid-2020s[2].

Tempest will be able to fly unmanned and use swarming technology to control drones. It will incorporate artificial intelligence deep learning and possess directed-energy weapons. Another piece of technology being designed into Tempest is so-called Cooperative Engagement Capability, the ability to cooperate on the battlefield, sharing sensor data and messages to coordinate attack or defence. The RAF had a similarly named fighter in the Second World War, which also followed a Typhoon.[3]

This is what UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way. It shows our allies that we are open to working together to protect the skies in an increasingly threatening future – and this concept model is just a glimpse into what the future could look like.”

The Tempest fighter jet will be able to fly at more than Mach 5[4] and be controlled by a pilot from a wearable virtual reality helmet. The £100 million Tempest stealth aircraft is being designed to replace the Royal Air Force’s long-serving Typhoon and (if all goes according to plan) will enter service in 2035. It will also be the first to be operated, either crewed or uncrewed.[5]

Picture Credit: Screen Clip from promotional Video: Rolls-Royce Tempest – Powering the next generation, at:
© Copyright of BAE Systems/ and or Rolls Royce duly acknowledged.
Fair use claimed.

Mirroring the US Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program (NGAD), the Tempest aims to leapfrog the capabilities offered by the world’s most advanced fighter jets in operation today: fifth-generation fighters like the F-35, F-22, J-20, and Su-57. However, the leap from fifth- to sixth-generation is more about marketing than it is about function. Generational designations are effectively just industry shorthand to describe the design and production process that went into a platform.[6]

BAE Systems says[7]:

“We believe air forces of the future will no longer be able to rely on traditional platforms alone. Instead, a connected system of systems – across the Air domain but also including the Land, Sea, Cyber and Space, domains – will be vital to adapting to this fast-changing environment. We are working on development of what this future combat air system, with a future combat aircraft at its core, will need to look like in the 2030s, 2040s and beyond. This is why we talk about the development of a whole ‘system’ rather than a ‘platform’ or ‘aircraft’. We believe that ‘information advantage’ will be at the centre of this combat air system vision – with platforms across a++9ains being able to seamlessly exchange and interpret huge amounts of data to provide armed forces with a complete picture of that future battlespace.”

Tempest will deliver game-changing technologies and capabilities that are affordable, flexible, upgradeable, connected and cooperative whilst ensuring the Royal Air Force retains Operational Advantage and Freedom of Action.[8]

When it comes to the airframe, the Tempest brings four main features:

  • A balanced survivability design that will allow the sixth-generation fighter jet to get a picture of the battlefield while remaining hidden from ground and air threats even whilst carrying a significant payload.
  • A next-generation flight control system that includes flexible, software-driven systems, which will allow for easy and rapid changes in capability to reflect and meet the needs of any operator.
  • An adaptable physical architecture that will adapt to a wide range of mission sets and include versatile and variable software and hardware to meet the needs of every operation; operators will be able to pick and choose weapons, sensors, and fuel capacity depending on the mission.
  • A scalable autonomy that will include several different modes of operation, including the option to operate the aircraft with a human pilot or remotely.

When it comes to the two Rolls Royce engines, the Tempest has:

  • A more efficient power system designed to deliver greater range and endurance via an improved and higher thrust-to-weight ratio, meaning that the Tempest will be able to produce more power than its weight, thus making it more agile.
  • An improved propulsion designed to aerodynamically match the aircraft and optimise the overall performance of the fighter jet, including operational range and payload capacity.
  • More electrical power that the aircraft’s main computer will intelligently distribute throughout the aircraft to power the multiple high-tech systems and sensors.
  • Thermal management capabilities will enable the Tempest to efficiently cool the air system and thus minimise the aircraft’s thermal signature.

Additional Features
Some additional features include a virtual cockpit without a single dial or screen, reconfigurable communications systems, haptics, which gives the pilot the sensation of touch in active reality and virtual reality environments, and integrated effects that will allow the Tempest to engage targets with non-kinetic options, such as electronic warfare jamming and even directed energy weapons.

Art conceptions of the fighter jet released by the British Ministry of Defence and Team Tempest suggest that the sixth-generation fighter jet will have thrust vectoring capabilities, much like the US F-22 Raptor. These two-dimensional thrust vectoring capabilities can allow a fighter jet to fly in one direction but use its thrust vectoring technology to point the thrust of its engines elsewhere, and thus change directions rapidly in what must be one of the most intriguing and eye-pleasing air combat manoeuvres.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the new Tempest jet will not be carrier-capable or sea operational. Take-offs and landings will be purely land-based[10]. The jet’s designers say they are looking at laser-directed energy weapons, which are already being used on ships. The tempest jet would be the first fast jet with a laser-directed energy weapon – it would be more accurate than a missile, and it could also act as a highly effective defensive mechanism on a future air platform.[11]

Also known as the Future Combat Air System, the Tempest programme will contain optionally-manned and autonomous aspects, including drone swarms. Pilots may fly a central aircraft, flanked by smaller, less costly, less capable planes known at this stage as Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA), which acting as decoys or feeding information to the pilot, will be designed to fly alongside the Tempest to provide support and increased capabilities.

Some of the other concepts being explored include mind-reading flight systems and highly advanced artificial intelligence[12].

Cockpit or not?[13]
The Tempest designers are examining the use of a software reconfigurable wearable cockpit, employing a hi-tech ‘Striker II’ helmet – and, believe it or not – without a single physical dial or screen in the cockpit.

The headgear would allow the pilot to see the outside world and displays information in a virtual 3D landscape overlay of the outside seen through the visor, as well as physical objects which appear in reality. It would operate in a very different fashion from the cockpits of the past, which depended on physical instruments and windows.

Pilots will see what they need when they need it – such as targets, controls, the horizon and more – overlaid on the visor of BAE Systems’ Striker II helmet.[14]

In Conclusion
Fighter pilots of the future will operate in a different world. They’ll have more facts at their fingertips, more help from advanced processing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and laser precision weaponry and drones – aided by algorithms that haven’t even been created yet. This is the UK’s Tempest combat air system, announced in 2018 and under development around the country.[15]

“We’re taking a revolutionary approach, looking at a game-changing mix of swarming drones and uncrewed aircraft, as well as a next-generated piloted platform. Tempest is not just hardware, it is about the weapons, the sensors, its battlespace connectivity, and how information is moved around its network. Tempest will exploit our world-class industrial base, pairing our brightest minds with digital ways of working.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, chief of the UK air staff

Sources and Further Reading

A jet flying in the sky Description automatically generated with low confidence
UK Team tempest jet fighter concept
Fair Use claimed

Source: BAE Systems via flightglobal BAE Systems Tempest

  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source:
  4. At over 4,000 mph. This is three times as fast as existing aircraft. See also:
  5. Main source:
  6. From the Sandboxx Blog, at:
  7. At:
  8. Ibid
  9. Source and Acknowledgement: and author Stavros Atlamazoglou
  10. Source:
  11. Source:
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid
  14. Source:
  15. Ibid


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