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UK, Italy and Japan to jointly develop future fighters

The UK, Italy and Japan will join forces to develop the fighter jets of the future in an unprecedented international aerospace coalition announced by the UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace.

The Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) is a new partnership and ambitious endeavour between the three countries to deliver the next generation of fighters.

The program aims to harness the combined expertise and strength of the countries’ defence technology industries to push the boundaries of what has been achieved in aerospace engineering to date. Due to take to the skies by 2035, the ambition is for this to be a next-generation jet enhanced by a network of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft, advanced sensors, cutting-edge weapons and innovative data systems.

By combining forces with Italy and Japan on the next phase of the programme, the UK will utilise their expertise, share costs and ensure the RAF remains interoperable with its closest partners. The project is expected to create high-skilled jobs in all three countries, strengthening their industrial base and driving innovation with benefits beyond pure military use.

“The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this Government,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “The international partnership we have announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that, underlining that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions are indivisible. The next-generation of combat aircraft we design will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the strength of our world-beating defence industry – creating jobs while saving lives.”

It is anticipated that more likeminded countries may buy into GCAP in due course or collaborate on wider capabilities – boosting UK exports, the Prime Minister added. The combat aircraft developed through GCAP is also expected to be compatible with other NATO partners’ fighter jets.

The new combat aircraft designed under GCAP is expected to replace the Typhoon when it comes out of service.

The UK, Italy and Japan will now work intensively to establish the core platform concept and set up the structures needed to deliver this massive defence project, ready to launch the development phase in 2025. Ahead of the development phase, partners will also agree the cost-sharing arrangements based on a joint assessment of costs and national budgets.

Alongside the development of the core future combat aircraft with Italy and Japan, the UK will assess its needs on any additional capabilities, for example weapons and Uncrewed Air Vehicles.

“GCAP sits alongside our other defence cooperation with international allies, including the AUKUS partnership and NATO – to which the UK remains the leading European contributor,” said Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace.

“The UK defence industry is already leading the world in advanced aerospace engineering. At BAE Systems’ new ‘factory of the future’ in Lancashire, for example, the company is pioneering the use of advanced 3D printing and autonomous robotics in military aircraft.”

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