Britain showcases fighter of the future

UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson speaks during the unveiling of a model of the new Tempest fighter jet at the annual Farnborough Airshow, southwest of London
UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson speaks during the unveiling of a model of the new Tempest fighter jet at the annual Farnborough Airshow, southwest of London
Image: AFP

British Defence Minister Gavin Williamson unveiled a model of the country’s proposed new fighter jet, the Tempest, at the Farnborough Airshow on Monday.

He said Britain would seek international partners to help develop the project.

The government said £2bn (R35bn) had been earmarked to finance the project up to 2025.

Additional funding would be provided by its industrial partners on the project.

The aircraft, which will eventually replace the Typhoon fighter jet, will be developed and built by industrial partners BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, alongside UK engine-maker Rolls-Royce, Italian defence firm Leonardo and European missile manufacturer MBDA.

Williamson was speaking at Farnborough in front of a giant screen that was pulled away to reveal the sleek grey life-size version of the Tempest, the cockpit window visible in its pointed nose.

Britain wants to find an international partner to help develop the jet, and Williamson appealed to a crowd packed with visiting military chiefs who were present to see the model.

“Our approach hinges on international collaboration,” he said.

“My question to potential partners is: ‘How can you work with us, how can we work with you?’ ”

Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle said Britain was having discussions with a number of potential partner countries, including Sweden and Japan.

Analysts have said Sweden was the most likely partner, although countries like South Korea, Japan and Turkey, or Gulf arms-buying nations like Saudi Arabia, were also possibilities.

The new jet is set to be operational by 2035, ready to replace the Typhoon fleet, due to be retired in 2040.

The new jet will be able to be operated by a pilot in the aircraft, but will also have an unmanned capability.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced the new plans earlier on Monday when she opened the airshow.

“I want to announce the publication of the UK’s combat air strategy.

“It confirms our commitment to maintaining our world-class air power capabilities,” she said.

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