Engineers at BAE Systems are exploiting the digital environment to design, test, and fly concepts for Tempest, UK’s next-generation fighter jet, which will be in service by 2035.
BAE Systems has said that the conceptual shapes for the aircraft have been virtually designed and tested, with high-performance computers able to calculate the aerodynamic performance of different aircraft features and test pilots taking Tempest to the skies from a ground-based simulator.
Subsequently, scale models were produced by 3D printing and evaluated in the wind tunnel facilities at Warton, Lancashire, to physically test the aerodynamic properties of the design under harsh wind speeds of more than twice the speed of sound.
These tests also tested some of the key features of the Tempest, such as the aircraft’s so-called ‘flexible payload bay’ on the underside of the fuselage. As revealed by BAE, “The data from these tests are now being used to refine and shape the final design of the next UK fighter jets.”
“The digital twin concept we have developed will be used to design, test, and support every single system and structure for Tempest. By taking an entirely digital approach to the challenge the UK Government has set us, we’re transforming the way we work and adding incredible value to the program,” said Paul Wilde, Head of Airframe Technologies. “We can achieve what traditionally would have taken a number of months in a number of days. As a result, we’re working faster for the future, and we’re using the virtual environment to create endless opportunities for our engineers to experiment without boundaries, and with open minds – the key to the future innovation of the program.“
The wind tunnel tests will also help the manufacturer to create a draft of the Tempest, which will be evaluated by the British Ministry of Defense by the end of this year. Pursued by BAE and its partners Team Tempest Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, and Rolls-Royce, the future combat air system is due to enter service in 2035. Its development was recently reinforced by an agreement to also involve the defense industries of the partner nations Italy and Sweden.