Ensuring UK maintains a world-leading combat air capability
The British and Swedish governments recently held initial discussions about a future fighter jet collaboration.
The UK government is expected to commit to launching a next-generation fighter programme by 2020 in a sign of its post-Brexit ambitions to retain cutting-edge combat air expertise, after being left out of Franco-German programme.
Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus, said at a press gathering the UK could have a key position in a future European fighter jet programme even after BREXIT, rather than launch its own combat air project with other partners. According to Mr. Enders, other partners, such as Britain and Spain could join at a later stage. However, he said that discussions on the UK’s participation in a Franco-German project were being hindered by tensions surrounding BREXIT.
In April, Airbus and Dassault Aviation were named the lead industrial partners on a future European fighter jet programme, which aims to begin an initial study phase by the end of the year. This, of course, raised concerns in the UK that it could be left out of the crucial planning and design phase, which dictates who will have a claim over intellectual property vital to exports.
Obviously, the UK intends to play a leading design role in any partnership to develop a fighter to replace TYPHOON from 2040. A future fighter programme is also crucial to retaining aerospace expertise in Britain once production of the Eurofighter TYPHOON combat aircraft comes to an end in the middle of the next decade.
According to news reports, the British government is planning to unveil a combat air strategy on 16 July, the first day of the Farnborough Airshow, where BAE Systems will exhibit new technologies that could be part of a future combat air system.
Sweden, with Saab’s GRIPEN combat aircraft has indicated its potential interest and would be a natural partner.
BAE Systems has been working closely with Dassault on a future unmanned fighter, which is why the Franco-German programme came as a surprise. BAE Systems is furthermore a prime partner in the Eurofighter consortium with Airbus and Leonardo. The future unmanned project, combining capabilities on the UK’s TARANIS demonstrator and France’s NEURON, was critical to sustaining Britain’s competence once TYPHOON production ends. This new technology will now take backseat while all the focus is turned to a future fighter.