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UK partners with Japan, Italy for next-gen combat aircraft program

A trilateral defence grouping has been established to drive the development of a future combat aircraft platform with the support of three global defence primes. 

A trilateral defence grouping has been established to drive the development of a future combat aircraft platform with the support of three global defence primes. 

The UK Ministry of Defence has announced the formation of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) — a trilateral collaboration initiative between the UK, Italy, and Japan.

The companies have agreed to jointly develop next-generation combat air fighter jets by 2035, with the first phase of the program involving deeper defence industry cooperation between the nations, led by strategic partners BAE SystemsLeonardo, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries  

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Specifically, the nations are set to explore a network of capabilities, including:

  • uncrewed aircraft;
  • advanced sensors;
  • next-generation weapon technology; and
  • new data systems.

The future aircraft system developed under GCAP is tipped to replace the UK’s Typhoon fleet.

The GCAP could reportedly be open to other “like-minded countries”, with the future aircraft expected to be compatible with fighter jets operated by NATO partners.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who announced the first phase of the program at Royal Air Force Coningsby on Saturday (10 December), said the GCAP would help shore up the UK’s defences into the future.  

“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 defence technology — outpacing and outmanoeuvring those who seek to do us harm,” he said.

“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.”

The UK, Italy and Japan are now expected to commence work to establish the core platform concept before launching the development phase in 2025.

“This international partnership with Italy and Japan to create and design the next-generation of combat aircraft, represents the best collaboration of cutting-edge defence technology and expertise shared across our nations, providing highly skilled jobs across the sector and long-term security for Britain and our allies,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

[Related: Saab to supply anti-tank weapons to British Army]

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