I still think we ought to be careful with our egos here in regard to how other nations see us. If we go round saying this is to be a British lead program I worry about how many will truly follow through. At the moment it’s very early days and there’s clear logic for others to enjoy the chance to join in researching the technologies of tomorrow. When it comes to signing up for actually building ‘tomorrow’s fighter/system’ things maybe rather different.
Getting all sniffy about the French will do us no favours. At the endof the day, in the west, only The US, France and Sweden(and in their case last time was with considerable external assistance) from the west can claim to have built a Mach 2 fighter on their own since the 50’s. And only they can claim to have a true top end solely domestically designed and built fighter in production today. I hear a lot of people talk about how Typhoon was mostly British, whilst they forget the final design we ended up with bears a lot more similarity to the German designed TFK90 than anything from the U.K. French salesmen will be quick to point this sort of thing out. Whilst I don’t doubt our technical capability to build and design our next fighter, I still think the old third dimension that famously killed TSR2 is still beyond us. When we look at how little the govt the cares about defence I see no way of them ever providing the money and long term commitment required to get a project this ambitious over the line. This is doubly amplified when one considers it will be of little use to have a super duper air system without the enablers that go with such a capability. The other forces will also quite rightly point out how much they are gonna need in order to make them remain relevant which is again essential for such a project to have true value.
I’d love to believe I’m wrong and we will do it, but what I see and read every day (from my admittedly totally uninformed civvie position) makes me see jt as less and less likely. Such a shame. Having read the discussion on here and elsewhere my guess is (in the fantasy world where such a thing were to happen!) something more mini B2 in size than the current generation fighter. With how much smaller being defined by where those with the tech knowledge feel the balance lies in how much of Typhoon level kinetics needs to be retained. This is complimented by a small number of UAV/UCAVs designed to take on completely interchangeable mission modules or sensor/weapon suites. Perhaps two more high end types, one more ISTAR and the other more killer, along with a cheap and cheerful expendable, yet again very flexible system. The beauty of it all is the whole thing wouldn’t need to be built together and could start as a basic system, we may well even see Typhoon with something like kratos XQ-58 derivative and progress over the years through a structured program to the son of Tempest and it’s system of systems and suite of unmanned wingmen one day becoming a reality. This could then be a never ending process where instead of spending a fortune every generation we look to organically grow or improve the system every few years.
Alas, I still there’s no way that third dimension of TSR2s could ever be got right to bring such a thing to reality. IMO in the real world we’re gonna have to accept the nightmares of a coalition build (which will likely be worse than in the past due to the need for more partners with more requirements due to falling budgets and numbers). Which will mean we’ll see the sort of thing we had with Typhoon where we had a great design in EAP and the Germans in TFK90 and political wrangling leads to a compromise design between the two and we spend years and waste money arguing where the canards should be and if we have the inlet in the right place, interestingly again give France their due here Typhoon AMK does sort of indicate they may have known more about canard deltas than we did or at least gave them credit for. As an aside I think BAE were in favour of close coupled, yet TFK90 went long
arm cos it was always intended to have TVC. Whether that we could have had an even better design than the already amazing Typhoon and didn’t is either down to German post Cold War cost cutting or BAEs lack of belief in TVC but now I’m wandering far off topic again so will leave it there!!