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Combat Air: Tempest Aircraft

Volume 724: debated on Friday 9 December 2022

In the summer I updated the House on progress under the UK combat air strategy, setting out the crucial importance of combat air to the nation’s security, sovereign industrial base and to our role in international affairs. I outlined the significant progress being made to develop a next generation combat air system, highlighting the substantial work underway with close and valued partners Japan and Italy.

It is with great pleasure that I now offer a further update on international partnering for our future combat air capability. In a landmark announcement, the Prime Ministers of the UK, Japan and Italy announced that we will work together under a joint programme partnership, the next step in deepening our collaboration. Within the UK, the aircraft under development will be known as Tempest.

Together, our ambition is to develop a next generation capability designed to outmatch adversaries even in the most highly contested environments, by utilising a network of cutting-edge capabilities such as advanced sensors, weapons and data systems. Due to enter service in 2035, it is being developed to keep ahead of the threat for decades to come and undertake a wide variety of missions within our wider military, across all domains.

Tempest will be developed by the newly formed Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), under a spirit of equal partnership, created by the merging of Japan’s FX programme with the UK and Italy’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This new programme will take forward our joint concepting activity and support technological and operational sovereignty across partner nations.

This announcement represents a major opportunity to develop our sovereign defence-industrial capabilities, demonstrating our commitment to the 2018 combat air strategy and the 2021 defence and security industrial strategy. The programme is delivering an uplift in skilled jobs for all three partner nations, providing a launchpad for careers in science and engineering. The enterprise already employs over 2,500 highly skilled personnel in the UK alone, including engineers and programmers, with recruitment expanding rapidly.

This programme will also be important in supporting economic growth across the country, with key combat air hubs in the north-west and south-west of England and in Edinburgh, supported by a supply chain of hundreds of organisations from one end of the UK to the other. It is a key avenue for investment in research and development, both public and private, with MOD and our industry partners having already invested well over £1 billion in developing the skills and technologies needed to deliver at pace.

This capability will be designed by some of the world’s leading defence companies. In the UK, these include BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce, working closely with the Ministry of Defence. The international partnership includes MHI, IHI and MELCO for Japan; and Leonardo SpA., Avio Aero, MBDA IT and Elettronica for Italy.

This is a truly strategic endeavour, demonstrating our commitment to maintaining the capabilities needed to defend the UK, protect and reassure our allies and partners and deter those who would threaten international security. It is a clear sign of a global Britain working with like-minded partners from across the world to deepen our defence capabilities, grow our advanced industrial capacity, and demonstrate our shared commitment to international security.