Farnborough airshow to focus on cleaner flying and potential fighter jet deal

Manufacturers to emphasise their efforts to reduce environmental impact of planes

Low-emission air travel and a potential deal for Japan to help build the UK’s next-generation Tempest fighter jet are set to take centre stage at the annual Farnborough airshow this week.

Executives from global aerospace manufacturers and airlines will gather at the airport in Hampshire after a four-year gap. The show, which begins on Monday, normally happens every two years but was cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, as the aviation industry faced potential collapse.

Analysts expect hundreds of orders for new Airbus and Boeing planes during the show as airline passenger numbers bounce back, but manufacturers have emphasised efforts to reduce planes’ environmental impact, even as they expect a resurgence in sales of commercial jets using fossil fuels.

Rolls-Royce, the FTSE 100 maker of jet engines, said it planned to test engines fuelled by hydrogen “to prove the fuel can safely and efficiently deliver power for small- to mid-size aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards”.

GKN Aerospace, owned by the FTSE 100 buyout investor Melrose, said its Fokker business in the Netherlands would be part of a €112m investment plan to work on high-voltage, high-power wiring needed to run fully electric engines.

Brazil’s Embraer, a manufacturer of smaller passenger jets for regional travel, on Sunday announced a deal with Raizen, a Brazilian energy company, to scale up production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – kerosene made from non-fossil sources. The aviation industry is betting heavily on SAF to deliver net-zero flight for larger jets, although supply is still meagre.

On the military side, the FTSE 100 weapons maker BAE Systems will on Monday give an update on the Tempest fighter jet, which could include an announcement that Japan will join the project as a partner, Reuters first reported.

BAE is running Tempest jointly with Italy’s Leonardo and Sweden’s Saab. It was first announced at the last Farnborough airshow in 2018 – after France and Germany snubbed the UK. Japan is currently developing its own F-X fighter jet, led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but its defence ministry has stated it may be open to collaboration.

Adding another partner country could spread development costs slated to hit £25bn, according to Justin Bronk, an analyst at Rusi, a thinktank. The UK government last week announced a radar upgrade worth £2.4bn for its predecessor, the Typhoon.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said the return of the airshow illustrated the recovery of the sector, as he pointed to “enormous opportunities for growth that exist as the world transitions to cleaner forms of flight”.

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The government on Monday announced that it had earmarked £273m in public and industry funding for aerospace projects ranging from more efficient wings to drones. The funding is part of the previously announced backing for the Aerospace Technology Institute, a joint-funded partnership between the government and industry.

The government will also publish a “drone ambition statement” setting out its aims for the sector and how it will change regulations, allowing drones connected to 5G mobile networks and “improving public communications to underline the potential benefits of commercial drones”.

The projects jointly funded by the government will include plans to use drones to deliver medical supplies to the Isles of Scilly and remote parts of Scotland, as well as using the unmanned craft to inspect infrastructure such as motorways and ports.


Jasper Jolly

The GuardianTramp

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