17 Jul 2018

Defence Secretary announces new Combat Air Strategy

The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced the publication of the new Combat Air Strategy at the Farnborough International Airshow – setting out Britain’s ambition to remain a world-leader in the combat air sector and to protect key skills across the UK industrial base.

As part of the strategy, the Defence Secretary unveiled plans for a new RAF fighter jet, the Tempest, which is envisaged as the eventual successor to the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The concept aircraft has been put together by British firms including BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce, which have joined together with the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office to form ‘Team Tempest’ to pursue the opportunity.

The strategy outlines the way in which the UK will acquire future Combat Air capabilities to maximise the overall value the UK derives from the sector. The framework will balance military capability, international influence, and economic and prosperity benefit along with the overall cost.

It reinforces the commitment in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review to deliver the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI). The Government, in partnership with industry, is taking steps to grow existing world-leading design engineering capacity and skills, ensuring that the UK continues to be at the cutting edge of combat air technology.

The MOD will now set up a dedicated team to deliver the combat air acquisition programme. They will deliver a business case by the end of the year, and have initial conclusions on international partners by next summer – with engagement with potential partners beginning immediately.

Early decisions around how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025. The aim is then for a next generation platform to have operational capability by 2035.

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.

“British defence industry is a huge contributor to UK prosperity, creating thousands of jobs in a thriving advanced manufacturing sector, and generating a UK sovereign capability that is the best in the world.”

image © Crown Copyright

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