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UK, Japan, Italy launch Global Combat Air Programme

An artist's impression of the manned fighter – that will be developed by the UK, Italy, and Japan under the Global Combat Air Programme – shows it flying over the UK Houses of Parliament. The fighter will still be known as Tempest in the UK, although Italy and Japan have yet to give it a name. (Crown Copyright)

The UK, Japan, and Italy have combined their future fighter efforts, with the new Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) announced on 9 December.

The merging of the UK-Italian Tempest that sits at the core of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), and Japan's F-X fighter was announced by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the home of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon force at Coningsby.

A joint statement by the prime ministers of the three countries said that the merger has the benefit of sharing the costs of investment in people and technologies. The intention is to field the sixth-generation fighter by 2035.

“Importantly, the programme will support the sovereign capability of all three countries to design, deliver, and upgrade cutting-edge combat air capabilities, well into the future,” the joint statement said.

Sunak said that the merger will allow the UK to “stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and out-manoeuvring those who seek to do us harm”.

“The next-generation of combat aircraft we design will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the strength of our world-beating defence industry,” he added.

While the UK led the Tempest effort, the GCAP programme will be a partnership of equals. BAE Systems is heading up development for the UK, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) for Japan, and Leonardo for Italy. Janes

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