Britain is set to team up with Sweden to develop the combat air technology of the future.

The SAAB built Gripen aircraft
The SAAB built Gripen aircraft

BAE Systems which employs more than 10,000 in Lancashire is to work in partnership with Swedish aircraft maker SAAB in developing new technology which will upgrade Typhoon and the Swede's Gripen jets, but also feed into the new 6th Generation fighter, Tempest project.

The two countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop new systems and have said they are open to other partner nations to join the projects in producing new systems for 2040 and beyond.

The mock-up model of the Tempest future air combat aircraft unveiled by the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

The mock-up model of the Tempest future air combat aircraft unveiled by the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and her Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist have signed the landmark agreement on a development and acquisition programme, including the development of new concepts.

It builds upon previous close co-operation between the two firms on such projects as the Gripen fighter and work between firms in the two countries on missiles and radar equipment and comes as Britain looks for partners on future air projects as France Germany and Spain have launched their own rival sixth generation fighter scheme.

The news came at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, Gloucestershire. At the signing with her Swedish counterpart, the Defence Secretary said: “The UK and Sweden have an enduring defence relationship, with our two industries sharing a rich history of collaboration in air power.

“Not only do we share the same commitment to tolerance, freedom and free trade, we also share the same determination to defend those values, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and today as part of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force.

“This agreement further deepens this partnership and sees us look to the future with a bold and shared vision of UK and Swedish air power.”

The Swedish Minister of Defence, Peter Hultqvist, confirmed both governments intend to remain at the forefront of combat air.

He stressed the opportunities to put advanced technologies onto Gripen and Typhoon, the world class combat aircraft currently operated by Sweden and the UK respectively, before inserting these technologies onto a future combat air system.

He added that the significant progress made to date was a result of focusing the discussions on practical considerations, recognising the strengths of each party and treating each other as equal partners.

Discussions between industries and governments had been ongoing since the publication of the UK’s Combat Air Strategy in July 2018 when the Tempest project was launched and the mock-up model unveiled.

Michael Christie, Director of Future Combat Air Systems - BAE Systems said: "12 months ago, industry and Government launched a bold and exciting vision for the future for the UK Combat Air sector on the BAE Systems stand at the Farnborough International Air Show.

"This was a vision that was encapsulated by the launch of the UK’s combat air strategy and the unveiling of our Tempest concept, a glimpse into the future of combat air.

“It also marked the launch of the Ministry of Defence’s combat air acquisition programme – a programme tasked with defining and delivering the future capabilities required when Typhoon begins to leave Royal Air Force service.

"The importance of international government and industry collaboration was made clear and, as such, today is a significant milestone for that programme as we welcome our first international partner. This spirit of cooperation was encapsulated in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all industry partners at the start of our deepening dialogue many months ago."

The Air Force Chiefs of both nations addressed the audience at the air tattoo event, as well as industry. UK industry was represented by BAE Systems, whilst Swedish industry was represented by Saab.