Williamson is expected to announce that 2 billion pounds ($2.65 billion) in government funding will be earmarked in the 10 years to 2025 to oversee the design and build of the aircraft, which will be operational in 2035. The plane -- nicknamed the Tempest after the team working on the plans -- is a joint venture with British aerospace companies BAE Systems Plc, Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, MBDA UK Ltd and Anglo-Italian firm Leonardo SpA.
“Britain post-Brexit is a world-leader in defense airspace and industry,” Williamson is expected to say at the expo, south of London. “Britain has been a leader in combat air for a century with skills and technology that are the envy of the world. Today we show that we are determined to make sure it stays that way.”
The U.K. is in discussions with other countries about partnering on the project that would also maintain some 18,000 jobs at home. Suggestions include a pact with Sweden, where Saab AB makes the Gripen fighter, or possibly Japan and elsewhere in Asia, where demand for warplanes is increasing as China and India flex their military muscle, the person said.
The fighter jet is under development by “Team Tempest,” a joint operation between the aerospace companies and the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capability Office under the Future Combat Air Strategy Technology Initiative. It could end up competing with a model being developed by France and Germany, potentially ending decades of cross-channel cooperation on warplane production, the person said.
The U.K. began work on an independent fighter after the German arm of Airbus SE, which had developed the Eurofighter with BAE, responded to 2016’s Brexit vote by moving to establish a new alliance with French warplane specialist Dassault Aviation SA. That threatened to eject Britain out of future developments or force it into the arms of the U.S., with which BAE is already partnered on the F-35 fighter, the world’s biggest combat-jet program.
The new “Tempest” model is meant to compliment the F-35 program and eventually replace ageing Typhoon craft. European Union companies and politicians have recently rowed back on suggesting Britain could be frozen out of so-called sixth-generation fighter plans.
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