A new “sixth generation” combat aircraft takes flight. The United Kingdom, Italy and Japan announced on Friday, December 9, an agreement to develop an air combat system bringing together the Anglo-Italian project Tempest and the Japanese stealth aircraft program FX, both launched there a few years old. It will ensure their safety against “new threats”particularly from Russia and China, said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“We must stay at the forefront of advances in defense technology, outmaneuver and outsmart those who want to harm us”, Mr Sunak said from a Royal Air Force (RAF) base in north-east England. This partnership shows, according to him, that “the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions is indivisible”.
For its part, Tokyo has just announced that it will increase its military spending by 56% during the period 2023-2027 compared to the five previous budget years. He wants to increase his defense effort to 2% of gross domestic product by 2027, while it did not exceed 1% until now.
This is the first time the Japanese have teamed up with European partners to design such sophisticated military equipment, their defense having been largely provided by the United States since 1945. The US Department of Defense said that“supports Japan’s security and defense cooperation with like-minded allies and partners”.
Called Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), the industrial production of this system around a stealth aircraft (with or without a pilot) would begin around 2030, according to an official from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. It would replace, from 2035, the Eurofighter Typhoon within the RAF and Aeronautica Militare, the Italian air force, and the F-2 of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) – with Lockheed Martin – used by the system of Japanese air “self-defense”.
The three countries of the “GCAP project” judge, in a joint press release, that it is “crucial to defend [leur] democracy, [leur] economy and [leur] security “. This is why this combat system should be, according to them, “interoperable” with those of the United States and other NATO members. The UK wants to fly a Tempest pre-prototype in 2027.
This political agreement will be rolled out on an industrial level. Leader of the program, the British group BAE Systems will have several partners: Rolls-Royce for the engines, the English subsidiary of the Italian Leonardo expert in radars, the European MBDA for the on-board missiles (including hypersonic). On the Japanese side, MHI will be the leader, associated with the engine manufacturer IHI.
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