Military

Tempest sixth-generation fighter to get blistering new radar technology

Tempest sixth-generation fight...
Numerous cutting-edge technological concepts are in development for the UK's Tempest fighter
Numerous cutting-edge technological concepts are in development for the UK's Tempest fighter
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Numerous cutting-edge technological concepts are in development for the UK's Tempest fighter
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Numerous cutting-edge technological concepts are in development for the UK's Tempest fighter

The companies building the UK's Tempest sixth-generation fighter aircraft have revealed some of the technological concepts that it will incorporate, including a radar system designed to handle as much data per second as a city.

Under development for the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Tempest will be one of the first sixth-generation fighters. It's designed to complement current combat craft like the F-35 Lightning II and the Typhoon fighters starting in the mid-2030s until the older warplanes are retired in the 2040s. The stealth fighter will be capable of carrying hypersonic missiles and controlling drone swarms, as well as producing large amounts of electricity, allowing it to power laser weapons.

Along with this, the twin-engine, delta-wing Tempest will have reconfigurable artificial intelligence and cyber-hardened communications that allow it to act as a flying command and control center, where the pilot acts more as an executive officer than a dogfighter.

The main partners in the Team Tempest partnership are BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA, Rolls-Royce, and the RAF, with hundreds of other high-tech companies and academic institutions also involved. As part of this development effort, the team is looking at a number of advanced technological concepts.

One of these is a new radar system being developed by Leonardo UK. Called the Multi-Function Radio Frequency System, it is claimed to be able to handle 10,000 times more data than existing systems, processing as much data per second as the entire internet traffic of a city the size of Edinburgh. A number of its subsystems have already been built and it's expected to see airborne testing in a few years.

Another is a wearable cockpit from BAE Systems that replaces most of the physical controls with augmented and virtual reality displays inside the visor of a helmet. Such a cockpit not only reduces the weight and complexity of the pilot area, but it also allows it to be quickly configured to suit a particular mission. When it's fully developed, it may even include a virtual co-pilot that appears as an avatar to interact with the pilot.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is working on a new combustion system for the jet engine that will power the Tempest, which will burn hotter than previous designs. This will increase the engine's efficiency and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, the company is exploring the use of 3D-printed parts and advanced composite materials that will make the engine lighter, more power-dense, and able to operate at higher temperatures.

According to BAE Systems, the team is working on over 60 technology demonstrations in the fields of sensing, data management, and autonomy, and is using new collaborative methods that have brought down the cost of developing the new radar technology by 25 percent.

Source: BAE Systems

9 comments
Dirk Scott
Ha ha! There is nothing quite like fanciful claims defence contractors will make to get their hands on taxpayers’ cash. Expect most of the above wish list to have been dropped by the time the UK cancels the project.
Gustav
Tempest is now a multi-national project - the involved parters are UK, Italy and Sweden.
guzmanchinky
It's almost like the 3G 4G and now 5G, seems like we are pumping out generations of fighter aircraft much quicker than before.
WB
what.. internet traffic of a city? that smells like BS to me. There's no chip that can handle that much data... or if that much data would need to be processed there's no way that this chip can produce that much energy. So no matter how you look at it, physics simply wouldn't agree with this.... when outlandish claims like this are made, it really questions every other claim...
Brian M
Given the time scale/life span of the fighter, perhaps the idea of near or space orbit operation should be considered? The conventional fighter role might well be surpassed by automated aircraft (drones).
Ben Wah
This sounds more like a 5th Gen +.

1st Gen: Jet propulsion
2nd Gen: Swept wings, range-finding radar, and infrared-guided missiles
3rd Gen: Supersonic flight, pulse radar, and missiles that can engage opponents from beyond visual range
4th Gen and beyond: High levels of agility, some degree of sensor fusion, pulse-doppler radar, reduced radar signature, fly-by-wire, look down/shoot down missiles, and more.
5th Gen: Stealth, Supercruise, and everything listed what Tempest would do like command control/aerial quarterback.

Whats new thats not found on 5th gen to be considered 6th? You have to at least learn to build a 5th gen first before going to the next. The only one that has done that is the US. China and Russia's attempts aren't true 5th gen when looking at how they are manufactured. All they are doing is just trying to stay relevant and claim 'me too' to not let the US's lead further.
Kevin Ritchey
And now I feel the need for a new laptop.
Ben Roberts
When the first multi-multi million dollar fighter is brought down with a drone that cost a few hundred K, watch all of this craziness disappear!
Vanilla Cat
It is good to know that a cutting edge aerial killing machine puts out low CO2 emissions.