The UK, Japan and Italy have announced that the three countries are to co-operate in the production of a new, sixth-generation fighter jet that will replace the current Typhoon aircraft in Europe and Japan’s F-2. “We are announcing the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) – an ambitious endeavour to develop a next-generation fighter aircraft by 2035,” British, Japanese and Italian leaders said in a joint statement.
The announcement purposely avoided mentioning Russia or China by name but made it clear that the new jet is a necessity because “threats and aggression are increasing” against the “rules-based, free and open international order,” adding that “Defending our democracy, economy and security, and protecting regional stability, are ever more important.”
The news comes hot on the heels of the announcement by Northrop Grumman that it is to build a sixth-generation stealth jet for the US Air Force. The announcement has received the full backing of the US government with whom the three countries are involved with the production of the fifth-generation F-35 programme. This latest development will have no effect on the F-35 programme.
“The United States supports Japan’s security and defence cooperation with likeminded allies and partners, including with the United Kingdom and Italy – two close partners of both of our countries – on the development of its next fighter aircraft,” the US-Japan statement said. “Future interoperability with the United States, with NATO and with our partners across Europe, the Indo-Pacific and globally – is reflected in the name we have chosen for our program. This concept will be at the centre of its development,” the British government commented in a separate statement.
Critics have said that strict US export controls on military technology have sometimes limited what customers of planes like the F-35 could do to adapt them to their specific needs. The leaders said the GCAP programme “will support the sovereign capability of all three countries to design, deliver and upgrade cutting-edge combat air capabilities.”