DSEI 2019: Tempest Shown Off with New Family of Weapons

The Tempest program started the show off right with the announcement that Italy would be joining the program. Now both Italy and Sweden have signed on to collaborate with the UK to develop a 6th generation combat aircraft. Italy and the UK share a great deal in common in the realm of combat aircraft, both being operators of the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35B. Coming together to create this future capability was an obvious choice. Italy’s Leonardo already has a large presence in the UK and as a world leader in military electronics was selected to be part of the program even before the Italian MoD had signed on.

A very scenic rendering of Tempest. Note the beavertail between the engines, likely for mounting a rear-facing radar. Photo: BAE

Next to the Tempest mockup on the DSEI floor, MBDA displayed a whole family of weapons to arm the aircraft. These included relatively mature systems like Meteor and SPEAR 3 which is being adapted into a flying jammer akin to the American MALD-J. During the event, the British MoD finalized a contract with MBDA and Leonardo to demonstrate the capabilities of SPEAR-EW. A number of never before seen weapons were also shown off.

The first of these is a pair of “Future Deep Strike” missiles, one of which is a ramjet-powered supersonic missile intended for time-sensitive targets such as air defense systems and is reportedly being considered for an anti-AEWs mission. Its counterpart is a subsonic stealthy cruise missile, essentially an evolution of Storm Shadow that is in service with the RAF. A pair of new anti-air missiles were shown (visually similar to ASRAAM), one optimized for internal carriage allowing two missiles to be carried on each rail as well as an “Increased Caliber” missile with a radar seeker. The latter missile is likely to fill the gap between the Meteor and the shortened ASRAAMs.

MBDA’s family of weapons for the Tempest program. Photo: MBDA

What was most interesting is the reveal of the Hard Kill Defensive Aid System (HK-DAS) micromissile. The USAF has a similar development program known as Miniature Self Defense Missile (MDSM). Put simply, this is a micromissile that shoots down incoming missiles. Tempest has been shown with what is known as a beavertail, a section between the two engines where a rear-facing radar can be placed. This would allow precise tracking of missiles approaching from the rear area so they can be intercepted. For this reason, the HK-DAS missiles won’t be stored like typical AAMs in the weapon bays. Instead, MBDA has said they will be stowed in dedicated launchers around the aircraft, probably appearing as VLS. This will allow missiles to be more efficiently launched at targets to the rear and top. Images of the launch system have not been released as of yet.

The HK-DAS missile is dwarfed by the larger ASRAAM derived missiles. Photo: Matt Moss

What’s interesting is MBDA also revealed a ground attack missile for precision close air support with using the same rocket body as HK-DAS. Using COTS technology the missile is expected to be very cheap and will work great in low-intensity conflicts where HK-DAS isn’t needed. This will likely replace Brimstone as the high volume precision strike weapon given that Brimstone will not be integrated onto Tempest (or F-35B as of yet).