A group of UK scientists, engineers, and innovators have partnered with the UK Ministry of Defence to conduct “cutting-edge” research into machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science and computing to support the development of software for a next-generation fighter jet as part of Team Tempest.
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BAE’s Tempest program is designed to be part of the United Kingdom’s next-generation “Future Combat Air System” (FCAS) and is a supersonic stealth fighter aircraft, designed to incorporate a suite of pioneering technologies, including state-of-the-art integrated sensing and protection capabilities.
An essential component for delivering that is the millions of lines of code on the aircraft, with many more lines of code also present in ground-based systems, this means the software on Tempest needs to be more robust and resilient than that on its potential adversaries.
Air Commodore Martin Lowe, FCAS Programme Director for the MOD, explained the importance of software and coding for this next-generation combat aircraft, saying, “Software is key for Tempest because the future operational environment demands adaptability, including frequent software updates. But software is also a big delivery risk. Recent history shows the dangers that arise when software is done badly, and the advantages of doing software well.”
The collaboration between provided valuable insights into software requirements, design, delivery, operation, speed of upgrades, and maintenance for both the fighter jet and the training systems pilots and maintainers will use to operate and support the aircraft.
Outsmart Insight, a deep tech intelligence company, and Oxford Creativity, a group delivering a systematic approach to innovation and creative problem solving, conducted targeted research with scientists, engineers, and academia.
“The advantages are so significant that, in terms of operational capability, the people delivering the software are as important as the people maintaining the aircraft or the pilots flying them,” Air Commodore Lowe added.
The research addressed the most challenging problems facing software development over the expected multi-decade life of the program: flexible ways of managing computing resources, the role of trusted artificial intelligence, software re-use, and increasing software dependability.
Based on the findings, Team Tempest partners have commissioned targeted follow-on research with UK academia, which aims to support the development of more robust software, which can be hosted in a more resilient way.
This work supports the program’s vision for a modern, efficient, assured, and continually improving software delivery ecosystem.
Tempest is targeted to be in service by 2035, with the program anticipated to deliver significant economic benefit to the UK, helping to sustain and develop critical skills and ensure that technical and industrial expertise from hundreds of organisations right across the UK remains at the forefront of advanced combat air systems for generations to come.