Engineers from the UK’s leading combat air industry partners have released further details about work underway to deliver the UK’s first flying combat air demonstrator in a generation.

Experts from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo UK, MBDA and the Ministry of Defense (MOD) are collaborating with a number of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop the technologies needed to deliver the supersonic stealth fighter aircraft again. UK generation, the Tempest.

The flying technology demonstrator, first announced by the UK Government in July 2022, will fly over the next four years and is being designed using a range of innovative digital techniques and transformative processes combined with UK defense industry experience from the world category.

At BAE Systems’ brand-new facility in Warton, Lancashire, test pilots from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and the Royal Air Force (RAF) have already flown over 150 hours with the demo aircraft in a new custom-built simulator. Extent, providing crucial evidence to support flight tests.

For the first time in military aircraft design, BAE Systems engineers have used machine coding to create safety-critical system software in a matter of days instead of weeks. This allows for rapid assessment of flight control systems during more complex flight maneuvers, with the simulator capturing crucial data on how the aircraft will handle and perform years before its maiden flight.

Engineers have also carried out aerodynamic tests on the engine, taking advantage of new advanced manufacturing processes to produce a uniquely shaped engine duct that slows air from supersonic to subsonic speeds at the face of the engine.

UK Industry details early work on the Tempest FCAS demonstrator.
UK Industry details early work on the Tempest FCAS demonstrator.

The air intake has fewer moving parts than a traditional fighter jet design, enhancing the aircraft’s stealthy design. The test was carried out at the Rolls-Royce facility in Filton, Bristol, the same facility where the Concorde’s Olympus engine was tested in the 1960s.

In collaboration with British crew evacuation specialist Martin Baker, a team of BAE Systems engineers has conducted ejection seat trials using a rocket-powered sled traveling at speeds over 800 km/h. Experienced engineers have collaborated with the younger members of the team to pass on vital knowledge that can be applied in future Tempest developments.

This range of novel technologies will demonstrate and test key elements of next-generation combat aircraft design and the knowledge, tools, processes and techniques required to develop Tempest, the aircraft to be delivered through the Combat Air Program. Global, with the UK, Italy and Japan.

Richard Berthon, Director of Future Combat Air at the Ministry of Defence, said: The Flying Demonstrator program is a remarkable effort to design and build a supersonic stealth jet aircraft that will demonstrate integration and develop our national capabilities while providing data and learning in support of the commissioning of Tempest in 2035.”

Neil Strang, BAE Systems’ Tempest Program Manager, said: “It’s been 40 years since our people ran the demonstration aircraft program that gave rise to the Typhoon, and the work we’re doing today is another unique opportunity to write the next chapter of aviation history. Throughout the Tempest program, we are using digital techniques and innovative design and engineering methods to ensure Tempest is in service by 2035.

For his part, Conrad Banks, Chief Engineer of Rolls-Royce Defense Future Programmes, stated “The aerodynamic tests have been invaluable in several ways. It has validated complex digital models and techniques and fostered highly collaborative working practices between BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce teams. We are delighted with the results and now move forward with the confidence that together we will be able to carry out the next phase of the development of the Flying Demonstrator.”

In July 2022, Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defense, announced plans to fly a new combat air demonstrator within five years.

At the time, he said: “The design and development of the demonstrator aircraft represents an important milestone, showcasing the success and talent of our engineers, programmers and software developers.”

BAE Systems