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UK reveals fighter jet 'Tempest' for post-Brexit era

July 16, 2018

Britain has presented its model for a next-generation fighter jet at the Farnborough Air Show. It would rival a similar France-led project, as the UK tries to maintain its military prowess in a post-Brexit world.

Model of UK's Tempest fighter jet
Image: Reuters/P. Nicholls

The UK's defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, unveiled a life-size model of the fighter jet — dubbed Tempest — on Monday at the UK's prestigious Farnborough Air Show.

Williamson said the "world-beating" jet can be used unmanned as a drone, or with pilots. It is scheduled to be operational by 2035.

The UK is to invest 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion, €2.3 billion) to 2025 in the stealth warplane, which will involve British companies BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce as well as Anglo-Italian Leonardo and pan-European MBDA.

Aiming to ensure UK leadership in defense

Williamson said the program was designed to ensure Britain's continued leadership in fighter technology and control of airspace in future conflicts.

Last year, France and Germany signed an agreement to develop Europe's next-generation fighter jet to replace the aging Rafale and Eurofighter jets by 2040, involving Europe's Airbus and France's Dassault Aviation.

Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, Airbus moved to partner with Dassault at the expense of Britain's BAE Systems. There are concerns in Britain that its defense industry may be shut out from EU plans for next-generation fighter jets, although, officially, both projects have invited other companies to join.

Read more: Why is Germany leasing armed drones?

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who gave a speech at the opening day of the air show, said the government is funding "the next phase of the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative through a ground-breaking partnership known as Team Tempest."

She stressed the UK's expertise in defense technology and emphasized that Brexit would help the UK take back control without disrupting supply chains.

The Farnborough Airshow is the industry's biggest event this year. It alternates with the Paris Air Show. Together, the two events account for over a quarter of the industry's order intake each year.

ng/rc (Reuters, AFP)