Tempest sixth-generation fighter to get blistering new radar technology
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