The UK and Italy are in collaboration with Japan in a project aimed at building a new jet fighter. It is expected to have advanced digital capabilities in artificial intelligence and cyber warfare.
The partnership, comprised of countries from both Europe and Asia, aims to put an advanced front-line fighter into operation. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it will create thousands of UK jobs and strengthen security ties.
While visiting RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, England on Friday, PM Sunak said the partnership would “keep the country safe from the new threats” that the UK faces.
He said, “We’re one of the few countries in the world that has the capability to build technologically advanced fighter aircraft.”
The project will combine the British-led Future Combat Air System project, known as Tempest, with Japan’s F-X program in a venture referred to as the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP).
The UK, Italy, and Japan expect to develop a next-generation fighter that will eventually replace the Typhoon jet. It is expected that the fighter will enter into service in the mid-2030s and carry the latest weapons.
UK, Italy, and Japan collaboration for fighter jets amid insecurity
Due to prevailing insecurities as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as intensifying Chinese military activity, the collaboration may support Japan in countering the growing military might of its largest neighbor, China.
For Europe and Britain in particular, it will play a bigger security role in a region that is a key driver for global economic growth.
In a joint statement, leaders of the three countries said, “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 contested, and threats and aggression are increasing.”
Ahead of his visit to RAF Coningsby, Sunak said, “The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this government.”
“That’s why we need to stay at the cutting edge of advancements in [defense] technology— outpacing and [out-maneuvering] those who seek to do us harm,” he added.
“The international partnership we have announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that,” he said, “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 [defense] industry—creating jobs while saving lives,” Sunak concluded.
Fighter jet venture complex and expensive
The project work is underway, and it will create a combat aircraft that will provide speed stealth as well as use advanced sensors and even artificial intelligence to assist human pilots when they are overwhelmed or under extreme stress.
Upon completion, in some instances, the jet could also be flown without a pilot’s input if required. It will possibly also be able to fire hypersonic missiles.
However, building such a complex aircraft is extremely expensive so. Therefore, the UK has been looking for partners in order to realize the manufacturing of such jets.
Italy was already on board, and the addition of Japan is a significant move at a time when Britain is worried about a more assertive China and is hence building closer ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
Other countries could still join the program. Currently, France, Germany, and Spain are already working together on their own separate design, as is the United States.
However, Britain’s BAE Systems PLC (BAES.L) Chief Executive Charles Woodburn told reporters that, currently, no other partners were needed.
“The three nations is everything that we need to take this [program] forward very successfully,” he said, adding he was confident the partners would work out further details of the collaboration in the coming months.
However, the three countries have yet to work out some details pertaining to how the project will proceed, including work shares and where development will take place.
The UK also wants Japan to improve the manner in which it provides security clearances to contractors who will work on the aircraft, sources with knowledge of the discussions told reporters.