The US “would welcome” the UK’s thoughts on sixth generation fighter aircraft, despite the two countries having separate programmes currently.
Following news at Farnborough Airshow in July that a Tempest fighter jet demonstrator will fly in the next five years, a US Department of Defense representative has hinted that collaboration between the two is a possibility.
“We would welcome the UK’s thoughts on sixth-gen development and deployment. But it’s not clear right now how that will look,” said the US air attache in London, USAF Col. Charles E. Metrolis, in an exclusive interview with Air Force Magazine.
The two countries collaborated successfully on the F-35 programme – in fact up to 10-15% of every unit of the fifth generation jet is built or developed in the UK.
For the time being, the US Air Force is working solo on its Next Generation Air Dominance programme (NGAD), the centre-piece being a fighter called F-X. Concept art has previously been released by USAF, while the service previously announced that a demonstrator has been flying as early as 2020.
NGAD is intended to replace USAF’s F-22 Raptor fleet, which itself is a US-only programme. It is also prohibited by law to be exported to other nations.
Meanwhile the UK government announced at Farnborough further collaborations with Japan on its own F-X programme.
“We’re aware the UK is working with Sweden and Italy on [Tempest],” Metrolis said to Air Force Magazine. “And I saw the announcement about involving Japan, though I believe the UK will have to formally submit a request to Sweden and Italy to have Japan join the programme.”
Metrolis explained that technologies that make up sixth generation fighters are an area for future collaboration between the US and UK.
“It’s going to be the latest technology on both sides. So if they have a particular insight or capability they can share, or we have something we can share with them, that’s good for the alliance,” Metrolis said. Basically, it’s best practices. There will be some avenue for crosstalk in the future in terms of development.”
“We’re very interoperable with the UK, more than any other nation. And as the F-35 rolls out across NATO, along with other platforms like the E-7, we’ll become even more interoperable. But we still have a lot to do with the interoperable piece.”
BAE Systems, the company at the centre of developing Tempest, is hiring 1,000 more engineers in the next 12 months to help develop the programme.
The new staff will work on the fighter as well as the Typhoon and other future BAE programmes.
Team Tempest is made up of the Ministry of Defence and industry partners BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce and MBDA UK.