United Kingdom has announced the country’s first entirely British fighter in decades. The new Tempest fighter project will primarily involve British defense contractors, forging a plane that could be used for domestic use and export. The British government says that the fighter should be ready for service by 2035.
U.K. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson introduced a full-sized model of the new Tempest multi-role fighter at the Farnborough Air Show. The Tempest incorporates a host of new technologies that would surpass what’s in the F-35, meaning the British plane would join the growing group of “sixth-generation” fighters now on the drawing board.
Several defense correspondents and aviation experts tweeted out some juicy details from briefings, particularly the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Tim Robinson.
— Tony Osborne (@Rotorfocus) July 16, 2018
One of Tempest’s most important technologies is optional manning, meaning it will be able to fly with a human pilot or without one. Tempest also would be able to direct a group swarming drones, complicating the enemy’s defense and enhancing the plane’s survivability.
Another piece of tech being designed into Tempest (and likely to become standard in future fighters) is so-called “cooperative engagement capability.” That is, the ability to cooperate on the battlefield, sharing sensor data and messages to coordinate attack or defense.
Tempest will have hypersonic weapons that travel Mach 5 or faster at its disposal, presumably in both air-to-air and air-to-ground configurations. The British fighter will also have directed energy weapons with “non-kinetic effects.”
What does that mean? It’s a good question. The phrasing seems to rule out cutting and burning weapons like lasers, particularly as the image tweeted by Tim Robinson shows the nose of the aircraft emitting electromagnetic radiation waves instead of a beam. It could mean electromagnetic pulse weapons that disable enemy electronics, or high-powered microwave emitters. There is no evidence so far of a conventional gun mounted on the aircraft.