BAE Systems has given its UK suppliers notice of its plans to produce a targeted 30% of parts for its Tempest fighter jet by Additive Manufacturing, reports Super155.
BAE’s warning notice comes as the UK aerospace supply chain feels the impact of a sharp downturn in demand for civilian aircraft due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
It is expected that BAE’s suppliers will have to adapt to meet the Tempest programme’s aim to cut the cost and time needed to produce a complex combat aircraft in half.
The BAE team working on Tempest has already reportedly reduced the production time of one large part, located in the rear fuselage of the aircraft, from about two years to two months using Additive Manufacturing.
In the future, instead of ordering some components from suppliers, BAE may additively manufacture the parts in-house.
Charles Woodburn, BAE Chief Executive, stated, “To stay at the forefront of this strategically important industry, we have to radically change the way we design and build combat air systems.”
David Holmes, BAE Manufacturing Director, explained that he expects new suppliers to join the Tempest programme, potentially from outside the aerospace industry, as a result of the new production targets..
“You may see traditional suppliers start to disappear,” he noted in an interview with the Financial Times. BAE is working with hundreds of suppliers on the Tempest programme.
AM was used to produce less than 1% of the parts on the Typhoon combat jet. BAE has also set a target of assembling 50% of the Tempest using robots, while no automation was used in the production of the Typhoon.
The manufacturing techniques identified for Tempest are reportedly being spun out into the Typhoon programme to prove their effectiveness. Early results are believed to have given BAE confidence that the target of halving the cost of Tempest’s development can be met, as long as the company has ‘an end to end supply chain’ that was fit for purpose.