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The UK arm of missile house MBDA, supported by Rolls-Royce, announced a new partnership with the UK’s Cranfield University on 8 December 2023 to develop a solution to validate supply chain maturity as part of its work on the Team Tempest future fighter project.

“The right level of supply chain maturity is key for the industrial partners in Team Tempest,” Mark Harrison, senior procurement executive at MBDA UK, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “Research by Rolls-Royce identified that Cranfield University was working on assessing supply chain readiness in the commercial sector, similar to the way we currently assess Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) and Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs), so we agreed a contract where the idea of Supply Chain Readiness Levels could be developed and made suitable and appropriate for application in a defence procurement supply chain environment.”

“To enable advanced engineering systems and complex programmes to be developed successfully, there must be a viable means of delivery, including a fit-for-purpose supply chain design,” said Professor Aris Matopoulos from the Centre for Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management at Cranfield University. “The proposed solution builds on the idea that the supply chain cannot be an afterthought in future defence programmes. Developing the product (ie technology) and the process (ie manufacturing) needs to go hand in hand with the supply chain.”

Supply chain executive for Rolls-Royce Dr Paul Hacker added: “Any successful new product development requires the concurrent design of the product, the manufacturing process as well as the supply chain. Currently, we lack sufficient detail and metrics for the state of readiness of a supply chain. With the support of Cranfield University’s research – which Rolls-Royce are pleased to have identified – we aim to fill this information gap and universally apply findings to programmes in any industrial sector.”

The initial study will be carried out over a six-month period.

The aim is to develop a new digital toolset that will provide a greater level of granularity on the state of readiness of a supply chain across the programme lifecycle, enabling earlier intervention in future potential supply chain risks.

This digital toolset would be agnostic and therefore, if successful, could be used in any defence equipment programme in the future.

Research by Rolls-Royce prompted MBDA UK to contract Cranfield University to study supply chain maturity in relation to the Tempest future fighter project.

Both MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce are part of the Team Tempest consortium, which also includes BAE Systems, Leonardo and the UK Ministry of Defence.

In December 2022 the UK’s Tempest project became the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) when the governments of Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy announced they would merge the previously separate Anglo-Italian and Japanese sixth-generation fighter projects.

The pacing goals of the Tempest/GCAP) effort is to have the first sixth-generational fighter deployed by 2035.