Japan, Britain and Italy to build joint jet fighter

TOKYO/LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Japan, Britain and Italy are combining their next-generation jet fighter projects in a new partnership spanning 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 combine the British-led Future Combat Air System project, also known as Tempest, with Japan’s FX program in a venture called Global Combat to field a front-line fighter jet by 2035. Air Program (GCAP), the three countries said in a statement on Friday.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s increased military activity around Japan and Taiwan, the deal could help Japan counter the growing military power of its big neighbor and give Britain a bigger security role in a region that is a key driver of the global economy. growth.

“We are committed to maintaining a 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 on the rise,” the three countries said in a joint statement. .

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Amid worsening regional security, Japan this month will announce a military buildup plan that will double defense spending to about 2% of gross domestic product over five years.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said separately that his country must remain at the cutting edge of defense technology and that the deal will create new jobs.

Britain’s BAE Systems PLC ( BAES.L ), Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries ( 7011.T ) and Italy’s Leonardo ( LDOF.MI ) are leading the design of the aircraft with advanced digital capabilities in AI and cyber warfare, Japan’s ministry said. to defend.

NATO USER

European missile maker MBDA will also join the project, along with avionics maker Mitsubishi Electric Corp ( 6503.T ). Rolls-Royce PLC ( RROYC.UL ), IHI Corp ( 7013.T ) and Avio Aero work on the engine, the ministry added.

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But the three countries have yet to work out how the project will proceed, including the work shares and where the development will take place.

Britain also wants Japan to improve security clearances for contractors who will work on the aircraft, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

Britain, which indicated that other countries could join the project, said the fighter, which will replace Typhoon fighters and complement the F-35 Lightning fleet, would be compatible with fighters flown by other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners.

The 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 jet that will be operational from the 2040s.

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The US, which is committed to protecting all three countries through NATO membership and a separate security treaty with Japan, also welcomed the Europe-Japan joint agreement.

“The United States supports Japan’s cooperation with its security and defense allies and partners, including the United Kingdom and Italy,” the US Department of Defense said in a joint statement with the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Japan initially considered building its next fighter with the help of U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin Corp ( LMT.N ), which has proposed a plane that combines the airframe of the F-22 with the flight systems of the F-35 fighter jet.

Reporting by Tim Kelly, Nobuhiro Kubo in TOKYO and Paul Sandle in LONDON; Edited by Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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