Italy, Japan & UK to develop next-generation fighter jets

LONDON, 9 Dec 2022:

Italy, Japan and the UK today announced the formalisation of an international aerospace coalition to develop a next-generation fighter jet by 2035.

In a joint statement, the three countries underscored the relevance of the pact – dubbed the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP) – at a time when “threats and aggression are increasing.”

It is believed the initiative would involve the merger of the Japanese F-X fighter programme – led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – and the British-led Tempest project – which includes its aerospace firm BAE Systems – and Italy’s Leonardo.

GCAP “will accelerate our advanced military capability and technological advantage. It will deepen our defence co-operation, science and technology collaboration, integrated supply chains, and further strengthen our defence industrial base,” the London, Rome and Tokyo joint-statement said.

The design of the new fighter will ensure “inter-operability” with the military systems of the US, NATO and the other allies of the three participating countries in Europe, the Indo-Pacific region and the rest of the world.

The governments expressed their willingness to work together in the “spirit of equal partnership,” and “the programme will support the sovereign capability of all three countries to design, deliver and upgrade cutting-edge combat air capabilities, well into the future.”

The first step will be to agree on the core concept of the new fighter and prepare the necessary structures to start the development phase in 2024.

During 2023, the UK, Italy and Japan must close the cost estimate for the project, agree on the economic contributions of each and reflect those plans in their national budgets.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak is visiting later today the Royal Air Force facility in Coningsby – home to some of the Typhoon fighters that have been the UK’s air defence basis for the past two decades.

“The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this government,” Sunak said.

“That’s why we need to stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and outmanoeuvring those who seek to do us harm.”

At a press conference, Japan’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said: “I hope our cooperation this time will become the foundation of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and European regions,” according to Kyodo news.