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RAF looks to Typhoon-Lightning-Tempest Force in 2030s

25 October 2018
With the Tempest concept first revealed at the Farnborough Airshow in July, the RAF says that the type could join the Typhoon and Lightning in operational service in the 2030s. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

Senior UK Royal Air Force (RAF) officers are envisaging operating a mixed fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning, and BAE Systems Tempest combat aircraft during the 2030s.

The ideas are surfacing as part of work to finalise the UK's Combat Air Strategy business case by the end of the year, according to senior RAF officers involved in the work.

A senior RAF officer told Jane's that the service "hoped to get the first Tempest aircraft into service in the early 2030s to begin replacing the first Tranche 1 Typhoons when they near the end of their 25-year service life".

The first Tranche 1 Typhoons entered RAF service in December 2003 and the first frontline UK squadron became operational in March 2006, which indicates RAF fighter numbers will start to drop off unless new aircraft begin to be brought into service after 2030.

There had been speculation that the RAF would not be able to fund building a new UK-manufactured combat aircraft under the banner of Project Tempest and continue with previously announced plans to buy 138 F-35 aircraft.

Senior RAF officers said the service still expects to buy a new UK-manufactured multirole combat aircraft and the full order of F-35s to operate in the shore-based strike role, beyond the 48 F-35Bs currently on order to serve on the Royal Navy's two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Jane's was told that once the last Tranche 3 Typhoons are retired around 2040-43 then the F-35s and UK-made Tempest-based aircraft would be the core of the RAF combat force.

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