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Global Combat Air Programme headquarters to be built in UK

Photo: BAE.

The United Kingdom has signed an international treaty with Japan and Italy for the development of a supersonic stealth fighter under the future combat air program.

The United Kingdom has signed an international treaty with Japan and Italy for the development of a supersonic stealth fighter under the future combat air program.

The treaty marks a key stage of the landmark Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) and confirms that the joint GCAP headquarters of the program will be based in Britain.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met with his Japanese and Italian counterparts, Minister Minoru Kihara and Minister Guido Crosetto, in Tokyo to confirm the agreement, and details were published on 14 December.


The treaty confirmed the UK will host the joint GCAP government headquarters, supporting hundreds of UK jobs and working with Japanese and Italian colleagues. The headquarters will be responsible for delivering vital military capability, strengthening each country’s combat air industrial capability, and achieving value for money.

In addition, the first chief executive will come from Japan, and a new separate joint business construct will be headquartered in the UK to oversee support and timely delivery of the program. The first leader of the joint business construct will be from Italy.

The resulting world-leading stealth future fighter to be developed from the program by 2035 aims to improve military capability, prosperity and strategic benefits for all three countries, as well as support future Indo-Pacific stability and wider global security.

The supersonic stealth jet is expected to boast a powerful radar that can provide 10,000 times more data than current systems, giving a battle-winning advantage. The joint development phase of the program is due to launch in 2025.

“Our world-leading combat aircraft programme aims to be crucial to global security, and we continue to make hugely positive progress toward delivery of the new jets to our respective air forces in 2035,” according to Defence Secretary Shapps.

“The UK-based headquarters will also see us make important decisions collaboratively and at pace, working with our close partners Italy and Japan, and our impressive defence industries, to deliver an outstanding aircraft.”

Within the UK, the development is being led by BAE Systems, in close partnership with Rolls-Royce, Leonardo UK and MBDA UK, as well as hundreds of companies in the supply chain from across the country. Together, they are working closely with lead companies from Japan and Italy to progress the design and development of this aircraft.

Supporting the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy, there are already around 3,000 people in major combat air hubs across the UK, including the south-west and north-west of England and Edinburgh, with almost 600 organisations on contract across the country, including SMEs and academic institutions.

In combat air, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has spent £2 billion in the UK over the last five years on technology, creating skills and capabilities with a further £600 million from industry to ensure the UK is ready to drive this program forward.

In addition to the development alliance, the UK Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group has been confirmed with Indo-Pacific security deployment in 2025.

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