The recently sealed British-Swedish partnership is sponsoring an extensive GBP2Bn UK-funded feasibility study to develop a combat air system to be available by 2040. Sweden (SAAB) will now bring expertise and development to this Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS-TI), but for the time being will not join Team Tempest, the planned centrepiece of British efforts. Following the opening of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) on 19 July 2019, ESD’s Georg Mader was able to conduct interviews with the key people in the TEMPEST initiative. A selected and abridged summary:
“Sweden is an ideal partner”
Interview with Stuart Andrew, then Minister for Defence
Procurement at the UK MoD, meanwhile Government Whip
ESD: TEMPEST has been around since Farnborough 2018. What are the main features of the initiative, what are the objectives?
Andrew: With threats accelerating, with competitors constantly seeking to gain an edge at every opportunity, the UK must think the long term – to guarantee we can dominate the skies for the decades to come! And by launching our Combat Air Strategy, we went towards replacing TYPHOON from 2040 on. That Future Combat Air System (FCAS) – expected to yield an initial report by late 2020 – looks for gamechanging while affordable future technologies. It lays the foundations for our tomorrow air warfare efforts.
ESD: And within these efforts, TEMPEST is what?
Andrew: A pillar! It is now put on an initial track with “Team TEMPEST”, a co-funded partnership between government and our industry partners towards aligning incentives, pooling expertise and sharing costs. And of course others are invited to discuss or participate, yet we even underline the notion of international cooperation.
ESD: Reportedly with nations like India, Italy, Saudi-Arabia, Turkey, and so on?
Andrew: There is a very good possibility of other strong partners coming along – and that also may very well include nations from outside Europe.
ESD: Now Sweden has become your first confirmed partner in this feasibility study, but is not directly joining Team TEMPEST. On what level does this partnership play out?
Andrew: On important levels, no doubt. Since launching our strategy and study, it rapidly became clear that Sweden is an ideal partner. Our past cooperation has created the game-changing METEOR BVR missile and they were the first introducing it operationally. While for now SAAB will not join our UK’s Team TEMPEST, Sweden will work with the team to deliver benefits to both nations, also between our two industries. In regards to cost-efficiency, by aligning common requirements and systems-architecture and thus keeping also our today‘s platforms current and a technological bridge to our future ones. With this experienced aviation nation joining, it shows that TEMPEST is not yet another paper plane, like some gloomed it would never happen.
ESD: In light of TEMPEST showing up on distant horizon, is there anything to change on the 138 F-35B LIGHTNING-II for RAF and RN, like cutting their numbers?
Andrew: No. I have no such information in this direction.
ESD: How relevant is Brexit in this context?
Andrew: I’m surprised this subject did not come up in your very first question. No, many of our collaborations we have undertaken in defence, happened outside of EU. And of course we remain members of NATO, closely working with our allies. Even as we are leaving the EU‘s institutions, we are not leaving Europe and are also not stepping off the world’s stage. No, we are here to stay. Especially in defence – even maybe better off.
“For us it is not about TEMPEST”
Interview with Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s Minister of Defence
ESD: Minister, why did Sweden opt for the British way towards a 6th generation fighter jet and not for the European Dassault-led project?
Hultqvist: This has many reasons. Britain is one of Sweden’s closest partners and friends and we signed this partnership as a confirmation of our bilateral relationships. And – Brexit or not – Sweden has a strategic interest in the future relationship with the UK. The two nations already participated in recent joint exercises in the Arctic and over Eastern Europe, with the largest British military presence in the Baltic Sea region in a 100 years. This is a clear signal to act together if needed, also in common threat assessment. And the subsequent aspiration, to pursue towards the cutting-edge up there – and not in the first place for an industry-political tool.
ESD: Is Sweden’s assumed strategic environment really as similar as the British one in order to explain your bilateral approach?
Hultqvist: Assumed? We both live in more challenging times, in both our strategic environment but also beyond. In our East, we see a more assertive Russia which repeatedly has shown to use military means for political and strategic goals. We saw that in Georgia in 2008 and with the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and with the ongoing aggression in Eastern Ukraine. We also see a more aggressive Russian military posture in the Baltic region. By deploying new long-range weapons, conducting “snap exercises” and by acting aggressive, provocative and sometimes careless towards Western sea vessels and aircraft. Russian behaviour has affected the security situation in a negative way, no doubt. In this environment, we first need to take responsibility for our own national security. Thus, Sweden is re-enforcing our national defence, including overall resilience in “total defence”, which also relates to hybrid warfare. But to keep stability in Northern Europe, in the Baltic region and further in all Europe, we also have to deepen our bilateral and multilateral defence and security cooperation with others. In these challenging times, we need more cooperation, not less. Added to all this, we face a more active China, with implications for both our wider security. Not only within Europe, but across the Atlantic as well, for our American and Canadian friends. And a strong transatlantic link is remaining vital for European and American security.
ESD: This is why you both see the air component as the most important element?
Hultqvist: Naturally! Air-combat capability and its tools and endurance is the key component of our defence strategy and posture. It is defined by parliamentary decision as a national security interest. And Sweden has a long tradition of advanced aircraft technology, of world-respected fighter-systems. But to continue developing cutting-edge technology, is time and resources-consuming, a great challenge to any nation. Both UK and Sweden intend to remain on the forefront of combat air, to meet our national security objectives and to protect our nations also from above. And for that, you have to go for “air dominance” ability, in your airspace and over the region. Not only via aircraft, but with radar, crypto-datalinks, and so on.
ESD: So it is both a security-based as well as an industry-driven approach.
Hultqvist: Well, in such a quest it turns out as of mutual security interests, to look to go with a partner who is just as skilled industrially as he is operationally. Both our nations have the industrial base to provide our countries with the needed future air-combat tools, as well as to constantly upgrade our existing GRIPEN and TYPHOON. But there are justified thoughts however, what might come after GRIPEN in a more distant future. That is why Sweden now signed up with the UK to analyse operational, economic and industrial prospects for partnering towards what is called the 6th generation. This is to the benefit not just of our own air capabilities but also for our international GRIPEN partners. One purpose is to also explore the feasibility for an affordable and substantial industrial base for the UK and Sweden. By conducting these studies, we lay the foundations for well-informed decisions, regarding future steps of technical and combat-air collaboration. We thus recognise each other’s strengths and we complement each other’s industrial ability. We see great potential in this cooperation; we have done a lot together and will do a lot good together in the future.
ESD: What exactly did you do jointly in the air-combat segment?
Hultqvist: This began post-war, with SPITFIREs and later early British jets in Swedish service, like the HUNTER and British engines in Swedish jets like the AVON. Today is illustrated by Swedish-made self-defence deployed on TYPHOON, or the AESA-radar for GRIPEN-E coming from Leonardo-UK. Or the METEOR air-to-air missile, manufactured at MBDA in Lostock, jointly developed by Sweden and the UK.
ESD: Does Brexit affect your collaboration?
Hultqvist: I have been assured once more that the UK will remain a partner in the current and future security situation in Europe, that they would fulfil all their commitments and that one can continue to count on them. Anyway, for Sweden it is important to look for an equal-footed partnership with the UK in any future aircraft programme. With half an eye on export markets, at the moment for us it is not about TEMPEST but about upgrades to GRIPEN-E resulting from research for TEMPEST. An interesting merge of 4+ and 6th generation. I’m keen to see US-reactions.
“You can’t have prosperity without security”
Interview with Charles Woodburn, CEO BAE Systems
ESD: It looks as if TEMPEST has been getting into gear since Farnborough 2018.
Woodburn: I am proud that this UK-initiated FACS has now become a true international endeavour. But it is not just about TEMPEST as another new aircraft. Today, it is on us to define and delivering all the future air-based capabilities required beyond TYHOON. In tradition for over a century, in working in partnership with the RAF, our industry hasdeveloped and delivered air-combat technologies in support to the UK’s position as a world-leader in fielded and deployed air-power. And at Farnborough last year, I was delighted to be part of the launch of the UK’s combat-air strategy and acquisition-programme, the signing of the “Team TEMPEST contract and the unveiling of our concept-model aircraft, which outlines a bold and exciting vision for the future. And the team is on track to delivering 17 European-firsts and 7-world firsts. Since launching that national endeavour, we have however consistently talked the importance of international cooperation in making this vision a reality, via collaboration between nations and industries. By their very nature such programmes are best delivered by sounding and decent partnerships. Thus in this undertaking we again said, that we want the best players involved, nations and industries that share our vision to deliver a world-leading, competitive and deterrent next generation combat-air system. Like Sweden.
ESD: What does the programme and its vision mean to the UK industrial sector?
Woodburn: You can’t have prosperity without security. Of course, this also is an opportunity to bolster our already world-class combat sector, which here in the UK has an annual turnover of more than £6.5Bn, while sustaining more than 18,000 highly skilled jobs and further 28,000 jobs in the supply-chain across some 2,000 companies. The military aviation sector generated 85% of all British arms exports in the last decade. And the sector today is resembled in Team TEMPEST by LEONARDO-UK and MBDA-UK. Or by experienced RR, with their EJ-200 proven exceptionally capable in service in powering the TYPHOON. And a fruitful collaboration with Sweden is up and running. LEONARDO-UK provides the wide-field RAVEN E-scan radar for every coming GRIPEN-E aircraft, delivering advanced targeting modes. SAAB also offers LEONARDO’s world-leading BRIGHT CLOUD active-decoy as an EW-option for all GRIPEN models. MBDA and SAAB worked together with other partners to realise the fantastic METEOR BVR-missile, that today arms both RAF TYPHOON and Swedish AF GRIPEN. On all that, we will build-up towards 6th generation.
“So we have to evolve, too”
Interview with Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of SAAB AB
ESD: That shouldn’t be so new for you, should it – the baptism of a new “baby”?
Wallenberg: No, it isn’t. While I was extremely happy to share the stage here, representing a company that has a long tradition in working with the British partners for decades, you have to reflect that my family was active in industry, finances and support of contemporary and basic science for 160 years, to invest in research, education, innovation and development. And 80 years ago, we joined efforts to set up, to create the defence-company SAAB. With the single purpose to support the defence of Sweden. And that is still the purpose today, with my family still involved in SAAB. Their aerospace heritage, with more than 5,000 aircraft built over several decades, includes the DRAKEN, VIGGEN and GRIPEN fighters. But also the full spectrum of air-, land- and sea-capabilities. Thus there is so much genuine Swedish in that new step – and that‘s why I am nevertheless somewhat exited.
ESD: And now, this is all about future technologies, some maybe years away until it emerges from the labs.
Wallenberg: Yes, fascinating, isn’t it? But they all are born out of current ideas and cooperation. Like the one we are already actually involved with the UK, the RAF. Our EW and self-protection systems supported RAF-pilots in HARRIERs, TORNADOs and now in TYPHOON. And our GRIPEN supply chain here in the UK supports thousands of UK-jobs. Our GIRAFFE-radars are a critical component of the SKY SABRE air-defence system and we also have participated in deployment of METEOR. So, our company’s commitment to the relationship with the UK has stood strong for many years. And we expect that to grow, both in spirit and presence over the years to come. At the same time during these decades of partnership, the world has evolved – as have the threats we are looking into face today. And so we have to evolve, too. That’s when new technologies come into play. One of our recent projects – called WASP – involves AI, autonomous systems, quantum-computing and related software engineering. And it turns out as one of our largest industrial research-projects ever. It will be extremely important to use these new technologies as a part, yet as a base for the FCAS feasibility. In this context, just last month we opened the SAAB-UK Innovation Hub at Imperial College at White City campus, an initial step for further R&D spending here in the UK. For SAAB this in order to keep up and stay ahead of technological development. Like we also do with Brazil on GRIPEN-E and with Boeing on the T-X.