TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) – Japan, Britain and Italy are integrating their next-generation fighter jet projects into a groundbreaking partnership that spans Europe and Asia, Japan’s first major industrial defense cooperation outside the United States since World War II. .
The deal, reported by Reuters in July, aims to have an advanced frontline fighter operational by 2035 by combining the British-led Future Combat Air System project, also known as Tempest, with Japan’s FX program in a project called Global Combat. The three countries said in a statement on Friday that the Air Force Program (GCAP).
Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stepped-up Chinese military activity around Japan and Taiwan, the agreement may help Japan counter the growing military might of its larger neighbor and give Britain a greater security role in a region that is a key driver of the global economy. growth.
“We are committed to upholding a rules-based, free and open international order, which is more important than ever at a time when these principles are in conflict and threats and aggression are on the rise,” the three countries said in a joint statement to leaders. .
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 GDP over five years.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said separately that his country needed to stay at the forefront of defense technology and that the deal would create new jobs.
The British company BAE Systems PLC (BAES.L), the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T), and the Italian company Leonardo (LDOF.MI) will lead the design of the aircraft, which will have advanced digital capabilities in the field of artificial intelligence and electronic warfare, according to the Ministry of Japan. Defense.
European missile maker MBDA will also join the project, along with avionics maker Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (6503.T). The ministry added that Rolls-Royce PLC (RROYC.UL), IHI Corp (7013.T) and Avio Aero will work on the engine.
However, the three countries have yet to lay out some details on how the project will proceed, including co-work and where the development will take place.
Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Britain also wants Japan to improve how it provides security clearances for contractors who will work on the plane.
Britain said other countries may join the project, adding that the fighter, which will replace Typhoon fighters and complement its F-35 Lightning fleet, will be compatible with fighters flown by other partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Confirmation of the plan comes days after companies in France, Germany and Spain secured the next phase of a competing initiative to build a next-generation fighter that could start operating from 2040.
The United States, which has pledged to defend the 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 Japan’s security and defense cooperation with like-minded allies and partners, including with the United Kingdom and Italy,” the US Department of Defense said in a joint statement with the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
Japan had initially considered building its next fighter with the help of US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), which proposed an aircraft that combines the F-22’s airframe and flight systems from the F-35.
Additional reporting by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo and Paul Sandel in London; Edited by Robert Purcell
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