Military Aviation

UK, Italy and Japan team up for the Tempest, the sixth-generation fighter that will be able to use artificial intelligence

The Tempest will be a sixth-generation fighter jet. The aircraft will replace the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, and will be deployed in the 2030s.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has announced a collaboration between the UK, Italy and Japan to develop the Tempest, a new fighter jet that uses artificial intelligence.

A full-size mockup of the Tempest was first unveiled on Jul. 16, 2018 at Farnborough Airshow.

The Tempest will be a sixth-generation fighter jet. The aircraft will replace the Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, and will be deployed in the 2030s. According to Andrew Kennedy, strategic campaigns director at BAE Systems, one of four UK-based companies involved, the Tempest would be a “gamechanger” and “as iconic as the Spitfire”. The Spitfire was the legendary fighter plane which protected Britain from the Luftwaffe during World War II.

The aircraft will carry the latest weapons.

Mr Sunak said the partnership would “keep the country safe from the new threats that we face” as he visited RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Dec. 9, 2022.

He said: “We’re one of the few countries in the world that has the capability to build technologically advanced fighter aircraft.”

According to BBC, work on developing it is already under way – with the aim to create a combat aircraft that will provide speed, stealth, use advanced sensors and even artificial intelligence to assist the human pilot when they are overwhelmed, or under extreme stress. It could also be flown without a pilot’s input if required and could be able to fire hypersonic missiles.

But building such a complex aircraft is extremely expensive – developing the F-35 Lightning II stealth jet was the most expensive programme ever undertaken by the Pentagon – so Britain has been looking for partners. Italy was already on board, and the addition of Japan is a significant move – at a time when Britain is building closer ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific region worried about a more assertive China.

Other countries could still join the programme. France, Germany and Spain are already working together on their own separate design (the Future Air Combat System, FCAS) – as is the US (the Next Generation Air Dominance, NGAD).

Ahead of the visit to RAF Coningsby, Mr Sunak said: “The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this government. “That’s why we need to stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and out-manoeuvring those who seek to do us harm.

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“The international partnership we have announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that, underlining that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions are indivisible.

“The next-generation of combat aircraft we design will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the strength of our world-beating defence industry – creating jobs while saving lives.”

John Healey, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, said his party backed the partnership but warned about training.

“Ministers must make clear how this fits with wider plans for the RAF’s future, including how they will prevent delays in fast-jet pilot training,” he said.

Photo credit: Crown Copyright

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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