UK, Italy, Japan join forces for sixth generation fighter jet

A BAE Systems sixth generation fighter model on show at Farnborough Airshow in July
A BAE Systems sixth generation fighter model on show at Farnborough Airshow in July

The UK, Italy and Japan have joined forces to develop a sixth generation fighter jet as part of a new agreement.

The Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) is a new partnership and ambitious endeavour between the UK, Japan and Italy to deliver the next generation of combat air fighter jets.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, visited a UK RAF base today to launch the first major phase of the programme, which 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.

A BAE Systems image render of new jet

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 its 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 our industrial base and driving innovation with benefits beyond pure military use.

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

During a visit to RAF Coningsby today, the prime minister viewed the Typhoon aircraft which have been at the heart of the UK’s air policing for two decades. The new combat aircraft designed by 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 our needs on any additional capabilities, for example weapons and Uncrewed Air Vehicles.

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.

Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “The launch of the Global Combat Air Programme firmly positions the UK, alongside Japan and Italy, as leaders in the design, development and production of next generation combat air capability.

“With our UK industry partners, we look forward to strengthening our ties with Japanese and Italian industries as we work together to deliver this programme of huge importance to our global defence and security. The agreement with Japan and Italy is fundamental to meeting the goals set out in the UK Combat Air Strategy and is set to create and sustain thousands of high value jobs and benefit hundreds of companies across the UK, contributing to long-term economic prosperity and safeguarding sovereign combat air capability for generations to come.”


BAE Systems

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