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DSEI Japan 2023: IHI, Rolls-Royce progress GCAP fighter engine

A model of the GCAP fighter displayed at DSEI Japan 2023. (Janes/Jon Grevatt)

Japan's IHI Corporation and the UK's Rolls-Royce have initiated development of the engine that will power the proposed future fighter aircraft under the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP).

Atsushi Sato, vice-president of IHI's aero-engine, space, and defence businesses, told Janes at the DSEI Japan 2023 exhibition in Chiba that the two companies are starting to exchange personnel and technologies following the signing of a joint development agreement in December 2021.

Sato said that the collaborative programme – named the ‘joint demonstrator engine' project – aims to prove capabilities including power generation and thermal energy management in an engine that is sufficiently compact for the GCAP fighter.

“We are now sending IHI engineers to Rolls-Royce and they are sending engineers to us in Japan,” said Sato. “There are a lot of new technologies that need to be validated. Another priority is the design of the engine to ensure it can be integrated into the new fighter aircraft.”

He said the two companies aim to develop an engine prototype by the late 2020s to enable integration into the initial batches of GCAP fighters to be produced from the mid-2030s. Initial tests of the engine will take place in the UK, he said.

Sato also said that the scope of IHI-Rolls-Royce engagement on the joint demonstrator engine is expected to deepen further through a future UK-Japan accord that will enable greater levels of bilateral technology transfers. Japan and the UK signed an initial agreement to transfer defence equipment and technology in 2013.

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