in Defence

UK scientists and engineers collaborate to accelerate FCAS

Posted 30 November 2023

The UK’s foremost combat air companies and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have conducted research with scientists at the cutting-edge of machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science and computing to support the development of software for Tempest, which is part of the UK’s future combat air system (FCAS).

Image courtesy BAE Systems

Tempest will be part of FCAS and is designed to be a supersonic stealth fighter equipped with pioneering technologies, including state-of-the-art integrated sensing and protection capabilities. These capabilities will be delivered, in part, by 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.

The collaboration 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 research addressed the most challenging problems facing software development over the expected multi-decade life of the programme: flexible ways of managing computing resources; the role of trusted artificial intelligence; software re-use; and increasing software dependability.
Air Commodore Martin Lowe, FCAS Programme Director for the MOD, said: "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 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.

“It is great to see the enthusiasm and optimism that Outsmart Insight and Oxford Creativity brought to this study. It gives us increased confidence that we can grasp the opportunities offered by software-based advances on the programme.  This project has also shown the value of collaborating on research with key organisations and individuals, across academia and industry."
Based on the findings, the 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 programme's vision for a modern, efficient, assured and continually improving software delivery ecosystem.

Tempest is targeted to be in service by 2035. The programme will 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.



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