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First photos reveal design details of Tempest aircraft

Tempest design
Photo: BAE Systems

UK defense contractor BAE Systems has shared photos of the first digital concepts for Tempest, a next-generation combat air system being developed for the UK.

Using the latest digital twin technologies, conceptual shapes for the aircraft have been virtually designed and tested, while computers calculated the aerodynamic performance of different aircraft features and test pilots taking Tempest to the skies from a ground based simulator.

Once digitally tested, scale models were 3D printed and put through their paces at BAE Systems’ wind tunnel facilities at Warton, Lancashire to physically test the aerodynamic properties of the design under wind speeds of more than twice the speed of sound. Data from these trials is now being used to refine and shape the final design of the UK’s next combat aircraft, which will be in service by 2035 according to the company.

“The digital twin concept we have developed will be used to design, test and support every single system and structure for Tempest,” Paul Wilde, head of airframe technologies, Tempest said.

“By taking an entirely digital approach to the challenge the UK government has set us, we’re transforming the way we work and adding incredible value to the program. We can achieve what traditionally would have taken a number of months in a number of days.”

BAE Systems is working closely with Rolls Royce, Leonardo and MBDA as part of Team Tempest to explore more than sixty technology areas in total, experimenting with different ideas ranging from the physical shape of an aircraft to the sophisticated sensors that will become the brains of a future system.

Photo: BAE Systems

This digital twin concept underpins the entire engineering lifecycle for Tempest. From initial designs, to manufacture and support, the concept will create an open and agile workspace for those involved on the program. It has also been adopted in the development of a “factory of the future” at Warton in Lancashire which BAE Systems is currently using to demonstrate how the future fighter aircraft could be built. Here, data from intelligent robots, supply chain databases and machines is digitally threaded together to deliver increased efficiency and accuracy in the manufacturing process.

BAE Systems are using data from the trials, combined with research across the program and together with its Team Tempest partners to contribute towards the development of an outline business case to be considered by the UK government, which is scheduled to be the next major decision point on commencing the next phase of a combat air acquisition program for the UK.