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Adios to the Pregnant Pelican - UK to fly new Tempest demonstrator within five years.

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Adios to the Pregnant Pelican - UK to fly new Tempest demonstrator within five years.

Old 18th Jul 2022, 15:16
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Adios to the Pregnant Pelican - UK to fly new Tempest demonstrator within five years.



UK’S ‘NEXT-GENERATION’ COMBAT AIR DEMONSTRATOR SET TO FLY



Ben Wallace MP, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, has confirmed that Britain plans to lead the development of a new flying combat air demonstrator as part of the Team Tempest programme, which aims to deliver the successor capability to the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon via a ‘system of systems’ known as the Future Combat Air System or FCAS.



This demonstrator aircraft will play a critical role in proving the design principles and technology that will underpin the manned fighter aircraft that lies at the heart of FCAS. It will also be the first flying combat air demonstrator designed and developed in the UK in a generation, and it is expected to fly within the next five years.



Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems Chief Executive, said that: “The demonstrator is an exciting once-in-a-generation opportunity providing experienced and young engineers alike a chance to contribute to an endeavour which really matters to our national defence and security.”



This demonstrator will not be a prototype in the traditional sense, as the design can and will continue to evolve. This is possible because so much development, design and testing can be carried out rapidly and efficiently in the virtual world, using synthetic modelling and model-based systems engineering. This means that the traditional ‘metal bashing’ and flight test phases of the project can be telescoped into a much shorter time frame. This in turn means that quite major design decisions can be left much later than would be the case in a traditional programme.



Rather, the demonstrator will provide evidence for the critical technologies, methods and tools that will be used on the core manned platform. As part of the broader activity involved in developing Tempest, the demonstrator programme will also help to retain, further develop and stimulate the next generation of engineers, allowing them to develop the skills and expertise required to deliver this ambitious programme.



It has always been the case that the final Tempest aircraft might look very different to the broadly representative full scale mock up first unveiled at Farnborough four years ago, alongside the launch of the UK’s ambitious Combat Air Strategy. As if to demonstrate this, BAE Systems has a smaller scale model of a very different looking Tempest configuration on its stand, and this apparently illustrates how thinking on the Tempest core manned platform has moved on as a result of modelling, virtual world testing, and evolving requirements work.



The resulting model is somewhat representative of one of the configurations illustrated in a ‘Concept Spread’ PowerPoint slide first unveiled before the 2018 Farnborough show, and bears some resemblance to an even more LO YF-23, with a trapezoidal wing (cropped on the inboard trailing edge) and a butterfly tail. The forward fuselage is somewhat sleeker than that of the existing P.189 configuration, cruelly dubbed as the ‘Pregnant Pelican’ by some observers!



The configuration may move on further before the design for the new demonstrator is frozen, and the demonstrator itself may not be fully representative of the final production aircraft.



The potential for these innovative design and engineering approaches to significantly reduce the time it takes to develop, design, test and deliver complex combat aircraft was demonstrated by Boeing and Saab on their T-7A programme, where they were able to produce a new, clean-sheet-of-paper-design that met all Key User Requirements, and did so while beating existing in-service competitors on price, and in the same timescale! BAE and Team Tempest aim to take this approach even further, and claim that they will also revolutionise support and upgrades exploiting these bleeding edge technologies to ensure that FCAS operators will be able to stay ahead of quickly evolving threats, whilst still delivering an advanced and cost-effective solution.



Other elements of the Future Combat Air System are similarly evolving and changing. Shortly before Farnborough, in late June, the Mosquito Project was cancelled, for example. This was to have produced a Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) demonstrator that had been expected to fly in 2023. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, explained that the RAF has “learned and gained a huge amount from our Mosquito program around digital design and novel manufacturing techniques,” but said that: “We’ve decided that our focus now should be on systems that can be operationalized much more quickly, and that is why we have drawn the Mosquito programme to a close." It may be that the FCAS system of systems will have more ‘low end’ diverse and distributed uncrewed adjuncts and effectors, and may not include a more closely ‘tethered’ Loyal Wingman. Interestingly, Lockheed’s thinking seems to be moving in a similar direction in the USA, and the USAF has just confirmed that it will not be proceeding with a Loyal Wingman for its new Northrop B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber.



The point is that, as a result of digital engineering and concepting, modern combat air programmes can be more agile and more adaptable, and ‘late changes’ like these are a great advantage, rather than an indicator of difficulty, delay or failure.



Work on the Tempest demonstrator is being led by BAE Systems, the UK’s sovereign combat air industry leader, working with the Ministry of Defence, Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce and MBDA UK and a number of suppliers across the UK.



This flagship project is just one of a series of novel technology demonstrators being developed by Team Tempest to demonstrate, test and exercise the skills, tools, processes and techniques that will be needed to ensure that Tempest is as good as it can possibly be when it enters service in 2035.


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Old 19th Jul 2022, 17:17
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BAE are already using the new Tempest configuration for CGIs.
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Old 19th Jul 2022, 17:19
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Various shots of the model, which is reminiscent of the YF-23






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Old 19th Jul 2022, 17:22
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and a few more!




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