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UK MoD allocates GBP£650M to future air combat program

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has allocated GBP£650 million (AUD$1.2 billion) to the tri-national Global Combat Air Program (GCAP). This funding will help take the sixth-generation air combat program, which the UK is pursuing in partnership with Italy and Japan, into its next phase, focusing on technology.

The UK remains focused on the system’s 2035 in-service date to ensure the UK Armed Forces remain a step ahead of adversaries, according to a UK MoD announcement.

The MoD has awarded the prime contract to BAE Systems on behalf of Britain’s defence industry, and particularly main sub-contractors Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce, to progress the design and development of the Tempest 6th generation combat aircraft.

The contract will build on the R&D already completed. The UK MOD and industry partners are working closely with Japan and Italy and the partners will now progress the maturity of more than 60 cutting-edge technology demonstrations, digital concepts and new technologies.

These are critical to the UK’s sovereign defence capability and will help shape the final requirements with Japan and Italy for the combat air platform, due to enter service by 2035.

The aircraft is designed to be an innovative stealth fighter with supersonic capability and equipped with cutting edge technologies, including state-of-the-art sensing and protection capabilities. This will make the aircraft one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable, adaptable and connected fighter jets in service globally.

“This investment forms part of more than £2 billion worth of UK Government spending on the project up to May 2025, announced in the 2021 Defence Command Paper,” said the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace.

“The next tranche of funding for future combat air will help fuse the combined technologies and expertise we have with our international partners – both in Europe and the Pacific – to deliver this world-leading fighter jet by 2035, protecting our skies for decades to come.”

Across UK industry, work on this program is driving investment in new digital technologies, tools and techniques, including model-based systems engineering with open architectures, digital twins and virtual environments. This will ensure the next generation combat aircraft will be delivered more rapidly and more cost-effectively than previous combat air programmes, he added.

A 2021 report by PWC suggested the UK taking a core role in a combat air system could support an average of 21,000 jobs a year and contribute an estimated £26.2 billion to the economy by 2050, he added

“The announcement follows the UK, Japan and Italy joining forces at DSEI Japan to showcase GCAP publicly for the first time since it was announced by the Prime Ministers of the UK, Japan and Italy late last year,” said Herman Claesen, Managing Director, Future Combat Air Systems – BAE Systems Air. “By combining forces, the UK and our partners will deliver the military capability we need to overcome fast evolving threats, share costs and ensure the RAF remains interoperable with some of our closest partners.”

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