Sweden will join the British sixth-generation jet-fighter programme Tempest, to be completed by 2035.
The Tempest programme is developed by BAE Systems, that is, a consortium that includes Rolls-Royce, MBDA and the UK arm of Italy’s Leonardo. The programme aspires to deliver a state-of-the-art fighter-jet, complete with radar-defeating stealth aerodynamics and new weapons systems, such as lasers.
The British programme will compete with the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS) initiative, led by Airbus and France’s Dassault. The programme was recently joined by Spain. FCAS aspires to deliver the first prototypes and begin test flights by 2026.
There is speculation that the two programmes could ultimately merge. Currently, the UK is part of the pan-European Eurofighter-Typhoon consortium, a fourth-generation fighter jet that could be withdrawn from service by 2040.
Seeking to retain technological and manufacturing capacity in a post-Brexit environment, the UK is seeking to find international backing to support the Tempest programme, probing Sweden, Italy, Japan, and Turkey. Jet-fighters make up 80% of the UK’s defence exports over the past decade. The Tempest programme already has 1,000 employees, which could double by the end of 2019.
In July 2018 the British government pledged an initial £2bn investment in the project, which is estimated to be merely a third of the capital needed. The Swedish membership of the Tempest programme is expected to be announced at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) air show on July 19, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times report. Swedish engagement would come with the involvement of Saab, Sweden’s leading defence contractor.