U.S. Could Partner with United Kingdom on New Fighter Jet

By Jon Harper
U.K. Defence Minister Gavin Williamson unveils a model of the Tempest aircraft.

Photo: Ministry of Defence

FARNBOROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM —The United States could potentially contribute to the development of a new fighter jet envisioned by the United Kingdom, a top Air Force acquisition official said July 17.

U.K. Defence Minister Gavin Williamson unveiled a model of the hypothetical aircraft named Tempest at the Farnborough International Air Show outside London. The goal is to field a new combat air capability by 2035. Early decisions about how acquire the platform will be made by the end of 2020, according to the British Defence Ministry.

“That’s one of the things I’m hoping to talk about this week [at Farnborough] with the U.K.,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper told reporters during a press conference. “We’ll look forwarding to discussions to hear what the U.K. is thinking about for their airplane and determine if there’s a role they would like us to play. … So more to follow.”

Roper also plans to visit the Royal Air Force’s rapid capabilities office, which is similar to that of the U.S. Air Force, he noted. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic are using organizations such as these to more quickly bring new technologies into their forces. Roper hopes to see more collaboration.

“We’re going to be looking for areas that we can work together,” he said. “To achieve the national defense strategy … we’re going to have to be able to not just fight with our allies, we’re going to need to be able to build things with them.”

The Air Force acquisition chief is also interested in potential U.K. involvement in the AFWERX initiative, which was established last year to help connect the service with innovative nontraditional industry partners. The first AFWERX office was stood up in Las Vegas. In recent weeks the Air Force opened another in Austin, Texas.

“We would love to think of expanding this storefront that we have in the Air Force with allies and partners because their industry base will bring new ideas,” Roper said. “Now innovation is global, so we can’t afford to have a [technology] storefront that’s only on our doorstep. We need it across the globe.”

The importance of speed in acquisitions will be a major theme in Roper’s discussions with U.K. officials and industry at Farnborough, he said.

The British have strong expertise in a variety of defense technologies, he noted.

“To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the only thing worse than doing acquisition with allies is doing it without them,” he said. “We really do get a lot from working with people that have a different point of view, that have different strengths in their industry base. That’s part of what I’m hoping to accomplish here at Farnborough is make sure that I’m meeting with top companies in the U.K.”

A major area of potential collaboration is space technology, he noted. The U.S. military now sees space as a critical warfighting domain and is concerned about adversary anti-satellite capabilities. The Defense Department hopes to develop a more distributed space architecture and agile launch options.

“I’m extremely excited to hear about their upcoming launch capability,” Roper said of the British.

“The more places that we have to put satellites up in orbits, the more places that we have to do experiments, the better chance we have of getting a future satellite architecture correct. … We’ll be looking to partner with the U.K. in many areas but space will definitely be one.”


Topics: Air Power, Global Defense Market, International, Air Force News

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