The strength of the trilateral collaboration between the UK, Italy and Sweden was seen as vital to driving effective exploration of future combat air technologies.

FIA Connect hosted a discussion panel with senior representatives from collaborating partners in the three countries which explored how deepening relations between key industrial partners was driving collaborative research, expertise and technology for the Team Tempest project. The partnerships will be taken forward towards a shared objective around future combat air capability development.

The panel session was held on the day seven more UK-based companies – GE UK, GKN, Collins Aerospace, Martin Baker, QinetiQ, Bombardier and Thales UK – signed up to collaborate on Team Tempest, the Future Combat Air System which will replace the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen.

Team Tempest has already employed more than 1,800 highly skilled engineers and programmers since the project’s announcement in 2018. The new members will join forces on established projects and development work with UK core members BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the Ministry of Defence.

Two billion pounds will be spent by the British government on the project by 2025. Sweden joined and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding in July 2019 to explore ways of jointly developing sixth-generation air combat technologies with Italy announced its involvement in just months later in September 2019.

The panel was made up of: Michael Christie. Director of Future Combat Air Systems. BAE Systems – Air; Peter Nilsson, Head of Future Programmes. Saab UK and Andrea Nativi, Senior Vice President, Market Analysis and EU/NATO Policies, Leonardo. The session was moderated by Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The discussion opened with statements from the CEOs of Saab and BAE Systems. Micael Jonansson, CEO of Saab, said the company would be opening an FCAS system in the UK, adding that the company would be making an initial investment of £50 million.

Combat air: a key component of the Swedish defence policy

“Combat air is a key component of the Swedish defence policy and defined as a national security interest by our parliament.”

He said the new FCAS system would also guarantee Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon access to new technology and capabilities going forward.

He added: “I am happy to take Saab on this journey as it is my strong belief that we are about to write a new successful chapter in the book of European combat air system development.”

FCAS – a “critical national asset for the UK”

Speaking on behalf of Tempest’s UK industry partners, Charles Woodburn, CEO of BAE Systems described the combat air sector as a “critical national asset.” He said the project would deliver operational advantage along with significant economic benefits including sustaining industrial capability, critical skills, early careers, technology and infrastructure to support the economy.

Woodburn added: “The combat air strategy also recognized that a model based on international partnership provides the best opportunity to deliver future military requirements and our broader national objectives. By taking this approach the UK and our partners will work together to define a system that is able to join multiple combat air capabilities to meet common objectives. Since then, we’ve had exploratory conversations with potential international partners to identify where there are shared goals as we develop a capable flexible and upgradable combat air system delivered on time and within budget.

“Our bilateral studies with Sweden and Italy have defined our common objectives as highlighted in our announcements last year with both nations.”

Woodburn told the session the trilateral framework was progressing rapidly – in spite of the challenges posed by COVID-19 – and the partners were assessing how to realise “the huge potential of the collaboration” across the three nations.

Project is “moving at a pace we’ve not seen before”

Woodburn added “This pioneering programme is inspiring new ways of doing things. We’re thinking differently and moving at a pace we’ve not seen before. We’re doing that on the shoulders of those who built the capabilities, technologies and international relationships that enable some of the most successful collaborations in defence. We’re taking the best of our core strengths and combining that with fresh new thinking and approaches working with the brightest minds.”

Describing the project as the “start of a journey” for Leonardo, Avio Aerio Electronica and MBDA, Alessandro Prufumo, CEO of Leonardo said the programme had the potential to generate enormous economic benefit and industrial and technological advancement for Italy and the project’s other partners.

Tempest will benefit entire supply chains of three nations

He added: “Large programmes, such as Tempest, have the potential to reach well beyond the perimeter of companies involved so the entire supply chain research centres, academia can increase their competitiveness also outside of the aerospace and defence sector. Today, we are taking a further step in this journey. I truly believe that nations with shared values must work together in order to promote growth and prosperity of their societies.”

Profumo described Tempest as the “cornerstone of a cross-border system” for shared concept of air superiority and defence as a whole and the “new mindset” will “ignite the engine of progress and generate a more effective and efficient approach” to the security and technology within the partner nations.

“We share the understanding that if we succeed now, our respective industries, not only in aerospace, defence and security, will flourish for the next generation to come.”

Programme will protect each nation’s “freedom of actions”

Michael Christie said the vision for Tempest had always been that of a collaborative international programme with a trilateral approach fundamental to building a single programme in multiple sites.

Nilsson added recent discussions had centred on how best to set up an affordable, sustainable and efficient programme, while, at the same time, protecting each nation’s freedom of actions

He added Sweden’s ultimate aim was to continue to stay as a leading OEM lead system integrator within combat air. “The Swedish parliament has declared combat air capability as a key area of national interest more specifically we are focusing on four important areas first and foremost closeness to our customer.”

He added: “Sharing our knowledge and experiences in using digitalization model-based design model-based engineering with our British and Italian partners will continue to create innovative technology and solutions for both existing platforms like the Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon as well as following new generation fighter combat air systems.”

Affordability and efficiency – “not just buzzwords”

He said affordability and efficiency were “not buzzwords to solve” and said the project would enable governments to spend their money smarter, ensuring that FCAS contributed to the partner’s economies. He added “anyone can build expensive and over-engineer products. Finding the right balance in close dialogue with the customer – that’s what’s challenging.”

Describing Tempest as an “energetic project,” Nativi said: “It is time for bold and innovative moves in the combat air domain to sustain our advantage for the next generation. The Italian industry believes that Tempest is vital to the future defence of our country and our countries and to promote the development of the national industrial bases and therefore a long-term sustainable prosperity. Tempest is vital to preserve and sustain thousands of high-skilled jobs which is fundamental and of strategic relevance all the more, considering the current difficult environment in which we operate.”

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