Band Sarah Young
LONDON, September 29 (Reuters) – BAE systems BAES.L said Tempest, the UK’s project to build a new fighter jet, will sign contracts with Italian and Swedish partners by the end of the year and talks are underway with Japan to join the project .
BAE’s Director of Future Combat Air Systems, Michael Christie, said he expected contracts with the two partners on the concept and evaluation phase to be signed by the end of 2021.
Talks with Japan ranged from joining the program as a partner to collaborating on technology, he said.
“There is a lot of commonality between the UK and Japan in terms of what they are trying to achieve in this area… this is an area that is ongoing and that we are actively pursuing,” Christie told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
The Tempest project, which includes in addition to BAE Rolls-Royce RR.L, European missile manufacturer MBDA and Leonardo UK LDOF.MI, has a UK government budget of £ 2bn ($ 2.7bn) through 2025, plus £ 800m from business over the same period.
While Britain works on Tempest to replace its Eurofighter Typhoon jets from 2040, France, Germany and Spain are working on a rival to replace the French Rafale and the German and Spanish Eurofighter.
Analysts wonder if European military budgets are sufficient for the two competing projects.
Christie did not want to know if they could be combined, but said that “the more the two programs work separately, the harder it will be to come together.”
France and Britain clashed this month over London’s trilateral nuclear security deal with Australia and the United States.
Christie said he was focusing on cutting costs by shortening the time it takes to deliver the new jet.
“We are working efficiently to deliver the Tempest system in half the time we delivered Typhoon,” he said.
The goal is for the main development program to start in 2025, with the aircraft operational by 2035.
Christie envisions a manned aircraft surrounded by unmanned drones and smart weapons, connected by an information cloud, but says decisions on how Tempest will operate won’t be finalized until 2025.
To reduce speed and costs, BAE is using 3D printing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots at its factory in Warton, in the north of England.
He also called on dozens of small businesses and academics outside of the aerospace and defense industry to improve technological capabilities.
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(Reporting by Sarah Young Editing by Paul Sandle and Mark Potter)
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