UK Defense Chief Hints Review May OK Future Combat Air System

Credit: USAF

LONDON—British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has hinted that the UK’s future combat air system initiative, Tempest, could be one of the winners in the government’s Integrated Review of defense and foreign policy. 

Writing in the Times newspaper on Sept. 6, Wallace said the UK needed products that could be exported to help the country afford the equipment the UK requires for its armed forces. He also cited the UK’s aerospace industry as being at the forefront of those efforts. 

“Our aerospace industry isn’t just a domestic concern,” Wallace wrote, noting that aerospace exports amount to £34 billion ($50.1 billion).

The UK’s Tempest has already secured Italy and Sweden as partners, with Saab expected to make investments in an FCAS technology center worth £50 million. 

“The defense and security sector is a breeding ground for science, invention and world-beating technology, as the bedrock of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK,” Wallace wrote. 

While the review will re-examine the UK’s foreign policy and defense operations, Wallace says it will also “recognize the importance of research, skills and the aerospace industry. Without them, our forces could risk losing the battle-winning advantage we will need in this evermore insecure and anxious world.”

Wallace said he recognized a need to reform and modernize the country’s armed forces to meet new threats.  

He said the UK had a “sentimental attachment” to a static armored-centric force that was anchored in Europe, possibly hinting at reports that the UK may do away with its fleet of Main Battle Tanks and instead focus on light armored and airborne capabilities.

Reports have also suggested that the UK may not buy its full complement of 138 Lockheed Martin F-35s, and potentially buy as few as 70 airframes over the program’s life. 

“If we are to truly play our role as ‘Global Britain,’ we must be more capable in new domains, enabling us to be active in more theaters,” Wallace wrote. 

Wallace also confirmed that the government would publish a Defense Industrial Strategy alongside the Integrated Review, which is expected in November. 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.