Much has been written about this aircraft project, especially after BAE Systems showed off a mock-up of its development at the Farnborough Air Show. Many different opinions were expressed about him, to the extent that it was a show and almost a bluff. It would seem, what else can be said about this?
What I was most interested in in the topic of British development, BAE Systems Tempest, was why British designers came to such decisions and what they give them in the tactical and technical sense.
Air command post
If the British, who value traditions very much, break traditions in something, then there is something to it. We are talking about a virtual cockpit, when numerous instruments, familiar to us, button panels and switches, are not installed in the cockpit, and all flight and tactical information is displayed on a digital helmet.
Such a radical step as a fundamental refusal to give the pilot the opportunity to control the plane directly, without the participation of a computer, and in general to give the opportunity to "figure out", in my opinion, has a very definite goal. A pilot should no longer be a pilot in the proper sense of the word and hold on to the pen; he should leave the piloting of the plane to the computer, and he should concentrate on the tactical situation and on managing the battle.
This is a multi-component concept. Tempest itself has the ability to unmanned control. The plane, judging by the statements of the developers, should be able to control other unmanned vehicles. The pilot does not have at hand the usual control and management devices and looks at everything through a digital helmet, which displays all the tactical information. Under this concept, a pilot is no longer a pilot, but a commander, and his task is to control the air battle of a whole squadron of unmanned or manned aircraft.
Well-known visualization of the strategy of using an aircraft of a new concept. The picture was intentionally done poorly to mask the central role of BAE Systems Tempest as an air command post, controlling the actions of other aircraft, including previous types
In general, the virtual cockpit makes BAE Systems Tempest, in fact, an airborne command post.
The British command, which put forward a similar idea, which formed the basis of the order for the development of the aircraft, obviously considered that it was best to control the air battle directly in the air, of course, having the support of all reconnaissance means and the continuous flow of various information. A squadron of attack aircraft or interceptors may encounter a rapidly changing situation when you need to modify tactics, change lines, redirect planes from one target to another, hit an enemy that appears, or just curl up and flee in time. The battle dynamics are hard to feel at a remote ground command center, even with all the visualization tools. To solve such issues, you need a person who makes decisions directly in the air. So that he can make tactical decisions quickly and efficiently, he needs a special aircraft.
It follows that the commander needs to be freed from piloting the aircraft, and he just does not need all kinds of devices, buttons and toggle switches. They should not distract him from his direct duties and create the temptation to "figure out".
Dominance in speed
Already the virtual cockpit alone suggests that the British are creating something special, unusual. And this is not a development in order to catch up with the level of American aircraft construction. If the UK had an urgent need to create its own advanced aircraft, BAE Systems could quickly develop an analogue of the F-22 or F-35 (BAE Systems participated in the development of this type) based on its components and components, or simply It would be to deploy partially localized production in the UK.
BAE Systems Tempest discovers the obvious influence of American experience, which can be seen even in the aerodynamic design, very similar to the F-22. But the ideas put forward by the British are definitely not American. They show how deeply the concept of the new aircraft was changed compared to already completed developments.
The real highlight of the project is the engines. Rolls-Royce promises to make such engines that could accelerate this aircraft weighing approximately like the F-22 (29,2 tons of normal take-off weight) to a speed of 4 or even Mach 5. To do this, the engine should be about three times more powerful than the Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100.
Here the question must be posed: how are they going to achieve this? Of course, Rolls-Royce speaks out about this project very vaguely and indefinitely, hinting at some particularly advanced technologies. But I think that the basis of any complex technical system is a simple fundamental idea, and they have developed and adopted such an idea.
What could it be? This is hardly a classic turbojet engine. It is unlikely that they have achieved such a degree of air compression that is enough to develop such a thrust at which the plane flew at Mach 4. Air is not the best oxidizing agent. There is another way out: apply the scheme of a liquid jet engine with the supply of an oxidizing agent, for example, liquid oxygen. This immediately gives the desired effect. Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 has an afterburner thrust of 156 kN, and the ancient RD-108 kerosene gives a thrust of 745,3 kN at sea level. This is what a concentrated oxidizing agent is.
Thus, if a turbojet engine is designed so that, in addition to air, an oxidizing agent, such as liquid oxygen or nitrogen tetroxide, can also be supplied to the combustion chamber, then the thrust of the engine can be sharply increased to the point where the aircraft accelerates to Mach 4-5.
I think this is an oxidizer, since the British abandoned the turbojet engines that the SR-71 was equipped with. The supply of an oxidizing agent allows you to flexibly vary the increase in engine power, which is very important for performing high-speed maneuvers, as well as go into acceleration at any stage of the flight and at almost any initial speed. SR-71, in order to enter the direct-flow mode of engines, it was required to achieve a speed of Mach 1,6.
Of course, Rolls-Royce has a difficult technical task to combine turbojet and rocket engines based on the first. They need to achieve not only that the engine, in principle, can operate in two modes and at the same time withstands the required operational characteristics, but also that it works absolutely reliably and easily switches from mode to mode. The company has a reputation that allows us to say that it will cope with this task.
What does it give? This gives, first of all, the invulnerability of the aircraft from most types of ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles, which have a Mach 4-4,5 speed. BAE Systems Tempest can simply tear themselves away or evade them. Even promising missiles, for example, to the S-500 complex, at Mach 5 will not be easy to get. Fourth generation aircraft will not be able to catch up with him or hit him with a rocket.
High speed makes BAE Systems Tempest an excellent fighter. At Mach 5, another plane flying at Mach 1,8–2,2 is like a fixed target. BAE Systems Tempest can get close to him and hit almost point blank, probably with no chance to dodge. At this speed, a British fighter can knock down an adversary with a cast-iron disc; however, most likely, air-to-air hypersonic missiles will also be developed.
A pair of squadrons of such interceptors will quite easily be able to destroy the enemy’s very large air fleet, consisting of generation 4 and 4+ aircraft, and achieve complete air supremacy, and then iron the ground in swarms of drones.
Of course, the project will not be easy. British designers and their partners will have to solve many technical problems. But if they succeed, if in 10-12 years they receive an airplane with the declared characteristics, in fact the UK will be able to count on achieving air supremacy.