Home Air Japan, UK, Italy merge fighter projects into Global Combat Air Program

Japan, UK, Italy merge fighter projects into Global Combat Air Program

Japan, UK, Italy next-generation fighter announcement
Artist's illustration of GCAS

Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom have joined forces to work on a sixth-generation fighter aircraft system under a project that will be dubbed the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP).

Merging the Tempest effort in the UK and the F-X fighter program in Japan, GCAP will aim to develop a next-generation fighter aircraft by 2035.

Italy, the UK and Japan, through their national industry leads Leonardo, BAE Systems and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will collaborate on the development of technologies for the sixth generation combat aircraft that will operate within a system of systems concept.

In addition to Leonardo, which has already participated in the program since 2018 through Leonardo UK, the Italian team will involve Avio Aero, Elettronica and MBDA Italia together with the country’s wider innovation and manufacturing ecosystem.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the three countries said they were 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.

“The GCAP will accelerate our advanced military capability and technological advantage. It will deepen our defense co-operation, science and technology collaboration, integrated supply chains, and further strengthen our defense industrial base. This program will deliver wider economic and industrial benefits, supporting jobs and livelihoods across Japan, Italy and the UK.”

“Importantly, the program will support the sovereign capability of all three countries to design, deliver and upgrade cutting-edge combat air capabilities, well into the future.”

Photo: BAE Systems

“This challenging and forward-looking program for the aerospace and defense industry will guarantee technological autonomy for the countries involved and provide each armed forces with unprecedented levels of performance and operational capability,” said Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo.

GCAP will build on the progress already made in the UK by BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the UK defense ministry who have been working in partnership since 2018 as Team Tempest to research, evaluate and develop a host of next generation future combat air systems capabilities.

What is more, this agreement is the next step in an already present collaboration between Japan and the UK on their respective fighter programs. In February this year, the countries entered into an arrangement to jointly conduct cooperative research on universal radio frequency sensor technology, known as “JAGUAR”, which aims to enable the armed forces to better detect future threats. Prior to that, the two countries signed an agreement for the collaboration on a future fighter aircraft engine demonstrator.

On the same day the GCAP project was announced, Japan released a joint statement with the United States regarding the project.

“The United States supports Japan’s security and defense cooperation with like-minded allies and partners, including cooperating with the United Kingdom and Italy, which are close partners of both countries, on the development of Japan’s next-generation fighter aircraft.

“The United States and Japan are enhancing bilateral defense cooperation in many promising areas, including promoting cooperation in joint research, development, testing, and evaluation. Based on bilateral discussions, the United States and Japan have initiated important collaboration on autonomous systems that can complement Japan’s next-generation fighter aircraft and other equipment. Japan and the United States agreed to begin concrete cooperation on autonomous systems within the next year.”