Former British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who lost her job overnight as new PM Boris Johnson took office, and her Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist have signed a landmark agreement to partner on ‘future combat air’, a sixth-generation fighter jet.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) commits both governments to work on a joint combat air development and acquisition program, including the development of new concepts to meet both nations’ future requirements.
“The UK and Sweden have an enduring defence relationship, with our two industries sharing a rich history of collaboration in air power,” Mordaunt said.
“Not only do we share the same commitment to tolerance, freedom and free trade, we also share the same determination to defend those values, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and today as part of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force.
“This agreement further deepens this partnership and sees us look to the future with a bold and shared vision of UK and Swedish air power.”
“I’m delighted that we have signed this Memorandum of Understanding, endorsing a shared and ambitious vision for future combat air systems which lays firm foundations for future collaboration,” British Minister of Defence Procurement Stuart Andrew said.
“Today we usher in an exciting new era in which the talents of two great combat air nations will be combined to lift Swedish and British airpower into the stratosphere.”
The UK and Sweden’s defence relations include: joint exercises in the Arctic and in Exercise Ramstein Alloy over the Eastern European skies; Swedish-made chaff and flare dispensers that are used on UK Typhoons; Saab’s Giraffe radar, which is a key part of the UK’s Sky Sabre ground-based air defence system; and Swedish Gripen aircraft, which are equipped with radars designed and built by Leonardo in Edinburgh.
The UK, working with European partners including Sweden, has also developed beyond-visual-range Meteor air to air missiles.
Hultqvist confirmed both governments intend to remain at the forefront of ‘combat air’.
He stressed the opportunities to put advanced technologies onto Gripen and Typhoon jets before inserting these technologies onto a future combat air system.
Hultqvist also highlighted the strong industrial base shared by both countries as central to securing future Combat Air power, as well as the existing Gripen fighter systems.
Discussions between industries and governments had been ongoing since the publication of the UK’s Combat Air Strategy in July 2018.
"12 months ago, industry and government launched a bold and exciting vision for the future for the UK Combat Air sector on the BAE Systems stand at the Farnborough International Air Show. This was a vision that was encapsulated by the launch of the UK’s combat air strategy and the unveiling of our Tempest concept, a glimpse into the future of combat air,” Michael Christie, Director of Future Combat Air Systems - BAE Systems, said.
Other nations have been encouraged to join the UK/Swedish dialogue, on the condition that they had similar requirements.