Double step forward for BAE Systems' future aircraft

The Tempest concept aircraft mock-up and the Typhoon
The Tempest concept aircraft mock-up and the Typhoon
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BAE Systems has taken two significant steps forward with  future aircraft projects.

Staff at Warton are starting testing on a new, solar-powered, unmanned aircraft, Phasa-35, in a project with Hampshire-based Prismatic which BAE has now bought.

The solar-powered Phasa-35

The solar-powered Phasa-35

Meanwhile the company has signed a statement of intent to partner with a raft of defence specialists including the Italian Leonardo to furhter develop the 6th Generation warplane project, Tempest.

This will see the parties work together to define an innovative concept and partnership model which will include knowledge sharing, product definition and technology development for the joint development of future combat air systems.

Work will also feed into future upgrades of the Typhoon.

In addition, a joint government feasibility study also concluded that the UK and Italy are natural Combat Air partners, with both Air Forces operating the same mixed fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 aircraft. Italian and UK industry share an interest in potential joint activity to meet national and international requirements.

BAE Systems’ chief executive, Charles Woodburn, said: “Our proven record of successful collaboration with Italian industry makes us certain that this partnership between our two nations is a strong fit for Tempest and demonstrates the growing momentum behind this important international endeavour.

"Today’s announcement will expand existing partnerships with MBDA and Leonardo, which are central to our work in unleashing the full potential of Typhoon, as together we develop future combat air technologies to the benefit of both nations.”

The Prismatic acquisition forms part of BAE Systems’ strategy to develop breakthrough technologies.

Since an initial collaboration between the two companies was announced in May 2018, engineers have been working at pace to develop two 35-metre solar-powered UAV prototypes, sensor payloads and operational concepts.

Nigel Whitehead, Chief Technology Officer at BAE Systems, said: “Working together with Prismatic, we’re pushing technological boundaries to develop a revolutionary solar powered aircraft at an incredibly rapid pace.

"Our investment in the company will enable us to take this technology into production, with the possibility that it could enter initial operations within 12 months of flight trials.”

As a high-altitude long endurance vehicle, the Phasa-35 (standing for Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft) is powered by the sun during the day and by batteries overnight. The long-life battery and highly efficient solar technology allow the aircraft to potentially maintain flight for up to a year, operating in the upper regions of the Earth’s atmosphere.