The Tempest: Increased Production Speed with Additive Manufacturing

04 October 2023
The Tempest Fighter Jet

Under a new Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), the UK, Italy, and Japan are set to collaborate on the construction of the new 6th-gen jet fighter: The Tempest, which will be comprised of up to 30% of 3D printed parts.

BAE’s Flexible Factory of the Future is set to use additive manufacturing and collaborative robots to print 30% of the Tempest’s parts. With this shift from traditional methods, BAE is looking to reduce the Tempest’s lead times and production costs by up to half, due to the economic downturn following the COVID-19 pandemic.

To achieve this, BAE may turn to additively manufacturing components in-house, rather than shipping them in from outside suppliers.  Thanks to 3D printing technology, the production time of a large rear fuselage component has reportedly been reduced from two years to two months.

The Tempest is set to arrive on the market in 2035, just 20 years after development began in 2015. This is a significant reduction in production time, in comparison to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor’s 26-year development and production period (1981-2005).

BAE recently acquired the fourth Stratasys Fortus 900mc system, Stratasys’ largest FDM 3D printer, and is now beginning to build large structural components. Greg Flanagan, Additive Manufacturing Operations Lead, BAE Systems Air said: “Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing plays an important role in this initiative, as it helps us meet our overall company objectives to reduce costs and time-to-market.”

The Tempest


This next-generation air combat system is envisioned as flexible, affordable, and rapid to update. Additive manufacturing will contribute hugely to the ease of update and repair. Printers can be housed in close proximity to the aircraft, reducing shipping time and costs of replacement parts.  These parts can instead be printed on demand to suit the needs of the situation and the needs of individual missions. 

Tempest will bring a ‘plug and play’ approach to aerial combat, with the ability to swap software and hardware in and out easily according to the demands of the mission, whether that be different fuel tanks, sensors, or weapons. This will reduce production costs and make manufacturing more flexible, which additive manufacturing will greatly facilitate. As Mark Tyrtania, Laser Lines’ Sales Director says: “There has never been a better time to make the switch to additive manufacturing.”

3D printing machine
Image: Clayton Cardinalli

BAE’s Additive Manufacturing Targets


In addition to BAE’s reported target of 30 percent of the Tempest fighter jet’s components to be made using additive manufacturing and 3D printing, it has set a target of 50 percent of the aircraft to be put together by collaborative robots on the assembly line. This is a major increase from the 1% of its Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft being 3D printed with zero automation.

The Head of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance Andrew Mair says BAE’s focus on robotics and additive manufacturing technologies on the Tempest programme ‘poses a threat’ to many traditional aerospace suppliers. However, Unite union’s National Officer for Aerospace Rhys McCarthy has backed the move,  stating that higher value jobs will be created.

BAE Systems’ Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Charles Woodburn, stated in the Financial Times: “To stay at the forefront of this strategically important industry, we have to radically change the way we design and build combat air systems.”





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