Japan, Britain and Italy are merging their next-generation fighter jet projects in a pioneering partnership that spans Europe and Asia. This is Japan’s first major industrial defense cooperation outside the United States since World War II.
The deal aims to deploy an advanced front-line fighter by 2035 by combining the British-led Future Combat Air System project, also known as Tempest, with Japan’s FX program in a venture called the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), the three countries said in a statement on Friday.
Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the intensification of Chinese military activity around Japan and Taiwan, the deal could help Japan counter the growing military power of its larger neighbor and give Britain a greater security role in a region which is an important driver of global economic development. grow.
“We are committed to upholding the rules-based, free and open international order, which is more important than ever at a time when these principles are being challenged and threats and aggression are on the rise,” the three countries said in a joint leader statement. . .
Amid what it sees as deteriorating regional security, Japan will this month announce a military buildup plan that is expected to double defense spending to about 2% of gross domestic product over five years.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said separately that his country must remain at the forefront of defense technology.
“It means we can protect the country from the new threats we face, it also adds billions to our economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs across the country,” Sunak said while visiting an air base in eastern England. agreement. “It is also good for our international reputation”
Britain’s BAE Systems PLC, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Italy’s Leonardo will lead the design of the aircraft, which will have advanced digital capabilities in artificial intelligence and cyber warfare, Japan’s defense ministry said.
European missile maker MBDA will also join the project, along with avionics manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric Corp. Rolls-Royce PLC, IHI Corp and Avio Aero will work on the engine, the ministry said.
However, the three countries have yet to work out some details about how the project will proceed, including divisions of labor and where development will take place.
Britain also wants Japan to improve how it issues security clearances to contractors who will work on the plane, sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.
Other nations could join the project, Britain said, adding that the fighter, which will replace its Typhoon fighters and complement its F-35 Lightning fleet, will be compatible with fighters flown by other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners.
Confirmation of the plan comes days after companies in France, Germany and Spain secured the next phase of a rival initiative to build a next-generation fighter jet that could be in service from 2040.
Asked about the potential for the British, Japanese and Italian project to join forces with the rival European project in the future, Woodburn said it was a possibility.
“I wouldn’t rule it out. Ultimately, these are political decisions,” he said.
The United States, which has pledged to defend all three countries through its membership in NATO and a separate security pact with Japan, also welcomed the joint agreement between Europe and Japan.
“The United States supports Japanese security and defense cooperation with like-minded allies and partners, including the United Kingdom and Italy,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a joint statement with the Japanese Defense Ministry.
Japan had initially considered building its next fighter with help from US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp, who had proposed an aircraft that combined the F-22 airframe with the F-35 fighter’s flight systems.