BAE Systems has signed an approximately £250m contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to design and develop the next-generation Future Combat Air System (FCAS) known as Tempest.

The contract marks the official start of the FCAS programme’s concept and assessment phase.

The MoD said that the latest investment forms part of the government’s £2bn spend on the project, which will be spread out over the next four years.

The programme is being executed by Team Tempest, which includes Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and MBDA UK.

Currently, the FCAS programme is in its concept and assessment phase.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Today marks a momentous step in the next phase of our Future Combat Air System, with a multi-million-pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our UK industry experts.

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“Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the UK and will ensure that the UK remains at the top table when it comes to combat air.”

Tempest is expected to provide an advanced fighter jet that integrates an entire network of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft and advanced data systems.

It is expected to be operational with the British Royal Air Force in the mid-2030s.

According to BAE, the concept and assessment phase contract will see the Team Tempest develop various digital concepts, embedding new tools and techniques to design.

The contract will also see the partners analyse and shape the final design and capability requirements of Tempest.

BAE Systems Air Sector Group managing director Chris Boardman said: “Working with our industry partners and the Ministry of Defence, we are on track to deliver an ambitious programme for the UK, which will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defence capability, capable of countering future threats and safeguarding our national security and defence.

“The funding announced today marks a critical next step for the programme and, with our partners, we will work together to define the technical and capability requirements and develop the concept which will bring Tempest to life.”

In January last year, Rolls-Royce announced the development of the world’s first electrical technology that will contribute to the Tempest programme.