LONDON --- Sweden is poised to join forces with Britain in the race to develop a European future fighter jet, a move that will give the programme a much-needed boost, according to several people close to the situation.
An announcement of Sweden’s collaboration on the project is expected to be made later this month at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), the air defence industry’s annual summer gathering at RAF Fairford, two people with knowledge of the decision said.
Unveiled at the Farnborough air show last July, Tempest is the centrepiece of Britain’s combat air strategy and designed to underline the country’s intention to retain its cutting-edge expertise, despite Brexit, after being left out of a rival Franco-German future fighter project.
The British government announced last July that, together with industry, it would commit an initial £2bn towards the project but ministers have made no secret that Britain needs international partners. Sweden has previously been mentioned along with Italy, Japan and Turkey. The ambition is still to sign up other countries and turn it into a genuine multinational programme, according to people close to the situation.
The Ministry of Defence is expected to set out the next steps in the programme at Riat but will stop short of offering more funding. The jet will be built in collaboration with the MoD by defence companies BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, MBDA, the weapons company, and the UK arm of Italy’s Leonardo. The involvement of the Swedish government is expected to lead to Saab, Sweden’s defence company, joining as an industrial partner.
Speaking at a debate on Britain’s combat air strategy in Westminster at the end of June, defence procurement minister Stuart Andrew said “detailed updates” would be provided at Riat on July 19.
The MoD declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Swedish defence ministry. BAE and Saab also declined to comment. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The financial status of the Tempest program is unclear, and both the UK government and BAE Systems, the company which leads the effort, have issued contradictory statements.
When it unveiled Tempest in July 2018, the UK government said it would “commit” £2 billion to the program, but no contract has been announced to date, a year later.
BAE, for its part, mentioned in its 2018 annual report its “decision to work in close partnership with the UK government on the Tempest programme to develop the next generation of military fighter jet,” again without mentioning a contract.
Later in the same report, it cautions investors that “company-funded research and development expenditure increases for the Tempest future combat air programme,” but in a third reference says “the business is currently mobilising resources against a contract awarded in July, whilst also engaging with industry partners and the Ministry of Defence to define and mature the technologies and capabilities that are required.”
The implication is that the company is investing its own funds in Tempest, presumably until a hypothetical contract awarded in July comes into force.
In any case, no such contract has been announced to date, which BAE is obligated to do as a publicly-traded company.)