In the framework of the current IFMIF Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (IFMIF/EVEDA) phase, ENEA is responsible for the design of the European concept of the IFMIF lithium target system which foresees the possibility to periodically replace only the most irradiated and thus critical component (i.e., the backplate) while continuing to operate the rest of the target for a longer period (bayonet backplate concept). With the objective of evaluating the performances of the system in terms of temperature, stress and displacement fields evolution during start-up and shutdown phases, an uncoupled thermomechanical transient analysis has been performed in close collaboration with the University of Palermo by means of a qualified finite element (FE) thermomechanical code. The calculations employed a realistic 3D time-dependent FE model which takes into account all the mechanical and thermal loads including the nuclear heating due to neutron and prompt gamma fields during start-up and decay power of activated products during shutdown. The nuclear data have been calculated by ENEA as part of a parallel extensive neutronic analysis carried out through the MCNP transport code and the EASY-2010 activation code package and then passed as input to the thermomechanical FE model. In this paper, the results of the above transient analyses are reported, highlighting the relevant indications obtained with respect to the fulfillment of the design requirements and possible hints for improving the system design. In particular, it is found that ITER design rules taking into account secondary loads are not always fulfilled during the transient, whereas the predicted displacements allow to exclude any contact of the target system with the surrounding structures. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.