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14 Dec 2023

UK, Japan, and Italy sign international stealth fighter jet programme treaty

UK, Japan, and Italy sign international stealth fighter jet programme treaty
UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023 / All images are used for illustrative purposes only.
UK Ministry of Defence Press Release

UK signs international Treaty with Japan and Italy for a future combat air programme that aims to develop an innovative stealth fighter with supersonic capability and equipped with cutting-edge technology.

  • World-leading stealth future fighter aims to improve military capability, prosperity and strategic benefits for all three countries.

  • UK-based headquarters will support hundreds of jobs, with initial leadership positions
    for Japan and Italy.

  • Project will support future Indo-Pacific stability and wider global security.

The UK has signed an international Treaty with Japan and Italy for a future combat air programme that aims to develop an innovative stealth fighter with supersonic capability and equipped with cutting-edge technology.

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

This combat air aircraft, due to take to the skies by 2035, aims to harness next-generation technologies and become one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable, adaptable and connected fighter jets in service globally. The programme is expected to create highly-skilled jobs in the UK and in partner countries over the next decade and beyond.

The supersonic stealth jet will boast a powerful radar that can provide 10,000 times more data than current systems, giving a battle-winning advantage.

Within the UK, the effort 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. 

Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps said:

"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. 

"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."

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met with his Japanese and Italian counterparts, Minister Minoru Kihara and Minister Guido Crosetto, in Tokyo. The signing of the Treaty comes a year after the formal launch of GCAP and highlights the positive progress in the development of this next-generation fighter jet. The joint development phase of the programme is due to launch in 2025. 

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 first CEO will come from Japan. The HQ will be responsible for delivering vital military capability, strengthening each country’s combat air industrial capability, and achieving value for money.

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 MOD has spent £2 billion in the UK over the last 5 years on technology, creating skills and capabilities - with a further £600 million from industry - to ensure the UK is ready to drive this programme forward.

A crucial programme for the future of stability in the Euro Atlantic, Indo-Pacific and wider global security, GCAP is a strong example of the UK’s global leadership in developing next generation military capability to deter and defeat threats to the UK and our allies.

It is another demonstration of our commitment to Indo-Pacific security, following the deployment of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group in 2021, with a further deployment coming in 2025, as well as the Navy maintaining a persistent presence in the region through HMS Spey and HMS Tamar. 

Separately, a new joint business construct will be headquartered in the UK, with significant global presence. This industry counterpart of the Government organisation will oversee support and timely delivery of the programme, including the 2035 in-service date of the combat aircraft – known as Tempest in the UK. The first leader of the joint business construct will be from Italy.

This collaborative approach is indicative of the ground-breaking international programme.

GCAP will attract investment in research and development into digital design and advanced manufacture processes, providing opportunities for our next generation of highly skilled engineers and technicians.

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