Europe challenges the States
The European defense industry deserves respect. If only because in the era of militant-pacifist (sorry for such a pun) politicians, he manages to be widely known. British BAE Systems is a good illustration. However, she is not alone. Let us recall the famous “Contact of the Century” (MRCA), in which the Indians intended to get fabulous new fighters by modern standards 126. At that time, the French Dassault Rafale and the pan-European Eurofighter Typhoon bypassed not only the Russian MiG-35, but also the American F-16IN Super Viper and F / A-18E / F Super Hornet. As we know, Rafale won, but again, Typhoon, unlike other applicants, had every chance of winning. C'est La Vie, as the French say.
However, it is important to note that the list of contestants did not include the fifth generation. India is not a partner of the United States under the F-35 program and, of course, cannot rely on any preferences in this case. But now the fifth generation has, it can be said, entered into force. And now, in the future, the Germans and the French themselves would have to fly on the American Lightnings II, if not for one “but”. The political paths of the United States and the European Union gradually diverge. In the world, the balance of forces is changing, priorities are changing. Apparently, in order to protect themselves, and also, of course, to support native companies, in April last year, France and Germany signed an agreement, including the creation of a new generation fighter. The main violin will be Dassault Aviation, and the concept itself is called Système de combat aérien futur, or SCAF. The fighter of the future should change the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale in the French Air Force, as well as the Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon in the Luftwaffe.
What about Britain? Being still formally part of the EU (the country is expected to leave the European Union 29 in March 2019), Great Britain was almost the only one in Europe who previously very vigorously pushed the new generation. Back in 90, BAE Systems worked on the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System) program, which was closed at 2005. Then they intended to create a promising combat aircraft to replace the Tornado GR.4 in the Royal Air Force. In the "hardware" at the time of closing, they only managed to build a mockup. Then they hatched a pan-European project (Britain, France, Germany and others) of creating either the fifth, or the sixth generation, or the drone UAV. And now, when the new agreement is ready and lures, like an appetizing dish, the British were simply not invited to the table. And they decided to do something of their own. At least in words.
What we were shown
The mock-up of the British (with some reservations) fighter of the new generation Tempest presented at the Farnborough air show in July of this year did not leave the agenda for a long time. We will tell in brief. The British will not be alone: in addition to the British BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and MBDA UK, Italian Leonardo participates in the project called Team Tempest. The leading role, of course, behind Britain: without it, the project would never have appeared. The Franco-German plans to create a fighter of a new generation are very serious (however, it’s still just plans), so other countries are unlikely to want to spend money on creating an analog.
The designation "Tempest", it must be assumed, was not chosen by chance. There is a connection with the famous British fighter of the final stage of the Second World Hawker Tempest - one can say, one of the symbols of British power. The project intends to spend 2,7 billion dollars to 2025 year. The aircraft should appear in both manned and unmanned versions. The fighter is made according to the “tailless” scheme: it has two keels deflected to the sides, as well as two engines. The model demonstrates a “trendy” besprepletny flashlight, which should help improve stealth on a serial combat vehicle. In general, the aircraft must meet the highest criteria invisibility. Other important features of the stealth technology are clearly visible in its design.
Later it became known that they want to equip the fighter with a virtual cockpit. Its elements will be added to the field of visual perception of the pilot using the helmet-mounted display, and the displayed information can be customized within wide limits. The concept of the virtual cockpit, presented by BAE Systems, implies an almost complete abandonment of the instruments in the usual way. In the cockpit, they want to install only one multifunctional touchscreen display, but it should only be activated when the augmented reality system fails.
Lady wants to surprise the world
In this news about the project, in general, end. This is not surprising, considering that it is at an early stage of implementation, and it may be several decades before the appearance of the production version. However, there is a high probability that the serial fighter will never appear. There are several reasons for this.
Potentially gigantic price
Modern stealth fighters are incredibly expensive. The cost of the F-35 development program is often deliberately or exaggerated by mistake. However, even the sum of 55 in open sources, of billions of dollars, can “sober up” anyone. The development of the F-22, by the way, cost more than 60 billions of dollars. Of course, such amounts strongly hit even the US economy. By the way, according to the Stockholm Institute for Peace Studies, US military spending in 2017 amounted to 610 billions of dollars, while the British for the sounded period reached 47. Misty Albion let ahead not only Russia, but also France. And also a number of other countries. In general, the reality is that the fifth generation fighter (not to mention the sixth one) can develop and launch into the series only the most advanced countries from the economic point of view.
Risks of the technological plan
Finance alone, however, will not be enough: there may be another problem for the “British”. Today, only the United States and China have serial stealth. The Japanese ATD-X is "stalled", the fate of the Russian Su-57 is uncertain, in any case, if we talk about large-scale production. This is because the creation of a new generation fighter is not only huge money, but also enormous technological difficulties, including the introduction of the notorious stealth technology. At the same time, the former mistress of the seas has not only the experience of building high-grade stealth, but also the experience of independently building modern fighters as such. The latest purely British development is the Harrier. He comes from 60's. In the case of Typhoon, Britain was simply a participant in the program, albeit one of the most significant.
Lack of visible goals and objectives for the program
The fighters of the cold war were to fight for supremacy in the sky. Modern fighters are fighting primarily for excellence in the market. weapons. Tempest does not fit into any of these scenarios. There is no real air threat for Britain, and most likely it won't press Americans or competing Europeans on the arms market. Another important point: if a promising European SCAF is designed to meet the needs of the Air Force of a number of European countries, then Tempest will probably be of interest only to the Royal Air Force. However, spending tens of billions of pounds on the development, in order to eventually build a few dozen cars for their Air Force, is absurd. Moreover, Americans can always buy a new batch of F-35. Or promising fighters that Lockheed Martin wants to build on the Raptor base.
The presentation of the Tempest layout could have several goals. Perhaps, in this way, British companies once again wanted to declare themselves, for example, to fit into the Système de combat aérien futur program. Or encourage British politicians to rethink their relationship with France and Germany for closer cooperation in a number of defense projects. But it is hardly a question of the actual development of a British combat aircraft. Most likely, in the future we will not see new “national” fighters from European countries at all. Even the hypothetical collapse of the EU is not likely to change anything in this case.
British Tempest fighter - window dressing?
- Ilya Legat