Last week, the Royal Air Force Capabilities Office and the branch’s Team Tempest held a virtual briefing to provide updates regarding their forthcoming 6th generation fighter dubbed “Tempest.” Along with industry updates and discussion about the program’s progress, the UK’s Ministry of Defence also revealed a new artist’s rendering of the new fighter (shown above).
Team Tempest includes a laundry list of defense contractors who are currently working on facets of the forthcoming aircraft, and they’ve made some lofy claims about what this new fighter will be able to do. Industry partners involved in the program include BAE Systems (the aircraft lead), Rolls-Royce, Leonardo, and MBDA.
“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way. It shows our allies that we are open to working together to protect the skies in an increasingly threatening future – and this concept model is just a glimpse into what the future could look like,” UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
Like the U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program (NGAD), the Tempest aims to leapfrog the capabilities offered by the world’s most advanced fighter jets in operation today–5th generation fighters like the F-35, F-22, J-20, and Su-57. However, the leap from the 5th to 6th generation is more about marketing than it is about function. Generational designations are effectively just industry shorthand to describe the design and production process that went into a platform.
While there are no formal requirements for the informal title of “6th generation” fighter, there are a number of assumptions defense experts have made regarding the capabilities such a jet would need to bring to the table. You can read a more thorough breakdown of those capabilities in our analysis of the 6th generation of fighters here. In the interest of brevity, some anticipated capabilities include the use of artificial intelligence to assist the pilot, the ability to manage drones in support of the fighter, and all the advancements that came along in the 5th generation, including stealth and data fusion.
According to this graphic created by BAE Systems, the Tempest promises to meet each of those requirements.