In hangar number five at BAE Systems’ sprawling factory in north-west England, test pilots are putting the world’s most advanced fighter jet through its paces. The pilots have already flown more than 170 hours over 125 outings but the jet itself has not yet been built; the flights have taken place inside a bespoke simulator in the cavernous space.
The virtual testing will help to inform live trials of a supersonic prototype aircraft scheduled to fly in 2027. It will be Britain’s first combat test aircraft since the Eurofighter Typhoon almost 40 years ago. It is also a critical first step if the UK and its partners Italy and Japan are to achieve their promise to have new generation aircraft flying by 2035 as part of the trilateral Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP).