A LANCASHIRE aerospace giant has unveiled plans for a state-of-the-art fighter-bomber aircraft

BAE Systems, with a plant in Samlesbury, has revealed the Tempest, which will use artificial intelligence and other systems technology.

For ‘Team Tempest’, with £2billion from the government, the company is in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and firms including Rolls-Royce.

BAE Systems, which employs 21,000 people across the North manufactures weaponry for the UK and US militaries, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia its third biggest customer overall and its largest customer for military aircraft.

BAE Systems’ director Michael Christie said: “Tempest is an exciting and ambitious multi-decade programme that will help to preserve our national security whilst at the same time driving significant economic benefits for the UK.

“The initial analysis revealed today demonstrates that Tempest is critical to ensuring the UK can sustain its world-leading combat air sector, preserving the sovereign capability that is essential to retaining military freedom of action for the UK.”

Company managers did not expand on expected international customers for the Tempest. However, the company’s Tornado and Typhoon jets, which the new fighter-bombers will replace, have found their biggest customer in Saudi Arabia which has used the devices in its intervention in the Yemeni civil war from 2014 onwards, the same year in which the company won a £4.4billion contract to supply 72 jets to the Saudi military.

The company was criticised when some of those jets were then found to have been used to bomb Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals and when it was also revealed to have sold mass surveillance technology to the Saudi police along with those of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Algeria all of which have faced questions over human rights abuses.

As a result BAE Systems, along with Leonardo and MBDA who are currently partnering on the development of Tempest, was subject to a complaint issued to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by a coalition of British and Yemeni groups in December 2019.

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesperson Andrew Smith said: “There will not be peace in Yemen as long as companies like BAE are continuing to arm and support the brutal Saudi regime.”

Despite this criticism, the company has continued to supply the Saudi military, with the company’s most recent annual report showing that the company made £2.5billion in sales to the Middle Eastern state during 2019.

The Tempest jets are currently scheduled to be operational by 2035, with international clients including Saudi Arabia likely customers.

A BAE spokesman said: “We provide defence equipment, training and support under government to government agreements between the UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.‎

“We comply with all relevant export control laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate, and our activities are subject to UK government approval and oversight.” The company has also said that programmes like Tempest are vital for jobs and economic recovery.

ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said: “The Tempest programme is essential for our national security and future prosperity.

“The high value design and groundbreaking engineering skills required for success will create a new generation of talent to drive UK industry.”