Farnes, England (Reuters) – UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson unveiled a model of the country's planned new Tempest aircraft on Monday at the Farnborough Airshow, saying it would seek international partners to develop the project.
The government said £ 2 billion ($ 2.7 billion) was earmarked to finance the project by 2025, and that additional funding from its industry partners would be made available for the project.
The aircraft that will replace the Typhoon fighter will be developed and built by industrial partner BAE Systems ( BAES.L ), Britain's largest defense company, alongside British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce ( RR.L ), Italian defense company Leonardo ( LDOF.MI ) and the European rocket manufacturer MBDA.
Williamson spoke at the Farnborough Airshow in front of a huge screen that was pulled away to reveal the slim, gray life-sized version of Tempest, the cockpit window in the pointed nose over a white belly.
Britain wants to find an international partner to help with the development of the jet, and Williamson appealed to the crowd, which was full military chiefs who were in the BAE Systems chalet to see the model.
"Our approach depends on international cooperation," he said.
"My question to potential partners in the room today is simple, how can you work with us, how can we work with you?"
Air Vice Marshal Simon Rochelle of the British Royal Air Force said Britain has talks with a number of potential partner countries, including Sweden and Japan.
Analysts have said that Sweden is considered the most likely partner, although countries such as South Korea, Japan and Turkey or Gulf-bought countries such as Saudi Arabia are options.
According to the plans, the new jet should be operational by 2035 and replace Typhoon's fleet, which is expected to retire in 2040.
The new jet will be operated by a pilot on the plane, but will also be unmanned.
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Prime Minister Theresa May announced the plans on Monday when she opened the airshow.
"I want to announce the release of the British fighter strategy that confirms our commitment to maintaining our world-class air force capabilities," she said.
The UK project is coming as Britain is to leave the European Union in less than nine months.
It will face competition from a competing European project after France announced in June that it would take a leading role in a new combat program. It would begin as a bilateral effort with Germany, which could later be extended.
The Typhoon, however, was developed in the 1980s by the four-nation group from Germany, Spain, Great Britain and Italy.
Michael Christie, Director Strategy Director at Air Europe, said Great Britain could develop Tempest on its own, but it makes sense to develop it with a partner, as it will ensure future sales.
"The partnership is a reality of today's defense market. It is very rare for large capital programs to be conducted alone, and it is very rare for someone to develop something and simply sell it, "he said.
Britain has not developed a fighter jet alone since the 1960s. However, it has contributed to the development and construction of the most advanced stealth fighter in the British fleet, the US-made F-35, with BAE Systems doing about 15 percent of the work on each jet.
Airbus ( AIR.PA ) and its longtime competitor Dassault Aviation ( AVMD.PA ), have agreed to work together on the German-French project.
The rocket manufacturer MBDA is jointly owned by Airbus ( AIR.PA ), BAE Systems and Leonardo.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Additional coverage by Andrew Shalal, edited by Paul Sandle and Mark Potter