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MOD awards £250m contract for Tempest design and development

Professional Engineering

The Tempest jet will replace most physical controls with AR and VR systems projected directly inside the visor of a pilot’s helmet (Credit: BAE Systems)
The Tempest jet will replace most physical controls with AR and VR systems projected directly inside the visor of a pilot’s helmet (Credit: BAE Systems)

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a contract worth approximately £250m to progress the design and development of the Tempest fighter jet system.

Described as the UK’s Future Combat Air System, Tempest is expected to provide an advanced fighter jet alongside uncrewed aircraft and advanced data systems. It could enter service from the mid-2030s.

Innovative features on the fighter jet include replacing most of the aircraft’s physical controls with augmented-reality and virtual-reality (AR and VR) systems projected directly inside the visor of a pilot’s helmet. Known as the ‘wearable cockpit’, the technology is in development at BAE Systems, which received the new contract. Developers hope the system, designed to provide pilots and ground operators with split-second advantage, will provide ‘instant’ configurability before missions. 

The new investment forms part of more than £2bn of UK government spending on the project over the next four years. The project’s concept and assessment phase will define and begin to design the system, and to develop technologies.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace announced the contract at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, the development centre for the programme and home to the ‘Factory of the Future’. About 800 of the 2,000 jobs supported by the contract are based in the north of England, across sites in Warton, Samlesbury and Brough.

Leonardo UK, Rolls Royce and MBDA UK are also partners in the project.

Wallace said: “Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”

Last year, the UK, Italy and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the project. During a visit to Tokyo last week, the defence secretary and Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi also agreed to accelerate discussions between the UK and Japan on developing sub-systems for a Future Combat Air System.

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