Saab invests £50m for FCAS Centre in UK

Saab announced £50 million for a new Future Combat Air System (FCAS) UK centre on day one of Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) Connect, which also saw seven new industrial partners for Team Tempest unveiled.

GE Aviation UK, Collins Aerospace, QinetiQ, GKN, Bombardier, Thales and Martin-Baker were announced as new Team Tempest partners during the FIA Connect online opening ceremony on July 20. The UK’s secretary of state for defence, Ben Wallace, named the new Tempest firms during his keynote speech which was part of the ceremony. Team Tempest is the consortium to develop the UK’s next generation air combat system, the programme for which began in 2018 with its founders, RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and the UK arms of MBDA and Leonardo. 

Tempest [BAE Systems]
The addition of seven new industrial partners increases the number of involved parties to 12. BAE Systems

Saab has not joined Team Tempest but has announced its intention to invest significantly in technologies and open the FCAS centre in the UK. “Saab took the decision to create a new FCAS centre so that we can further develop the close working relationship with the other FCAS industrial partners and the UK Ministry of Defence,” says Saab president and CEO, Micael Johansson. “Saab’s FCAS strategy ensures that the technology is in place to support a long-term future air capability and also to support continuous upgrades of Gripen E for decades to come.”

The location of the Saab FCAS centre is yet to be decided. Saab’s investment follows on from the UK-Sweden agreement for FCAS co-operation that was announced in July 2019. The Saab announcement follows the RAF unveiling the 3D design models of its Tempest fighter and Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) on July 18, the first day of this year’s virtual Royal International Air Tattoo. LANCA is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that would operate alongside piloted aircraft and could be a loyal wingman.

Early concept art depicting the LANCA UAS teaming with a British F-35B Lightning II. MoD Crown Copyright

Last week, the RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Mike Wigston gave new details about the service's UAS development. Wigston spoke about drone development during his July 15 keynote address for the virtual Air & Space Power Conference 2020. He said: “We will expand 216X Squadron's operational trials to evaluate the operation of swarming drones from our Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. We will do the same with our autonomous wingman project too. Further developments are expected towards the end of this year.”

During his FIA Connect ceremony speech, Wallace said that he expected the 90% piloted, 10% drone mix of RAF aircraft to be reversed by 2040 to 90% robotic and 10% crewed. Referring to Tempest, Wallace also said: “Over the next five years I can announce we will be testing out a suite of novel concepts that are likely to form our future combat air system.”