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Japan in talks with BAE on development of F-X fighter

Joint UK-Japan development of technologies for BAE's Tempest sixth-generation fighter programme, including engines, is expected to benefit Japan's F-X fighter. (Team Tempest)

Japan is in talks with BAE Systems to develop the country's sixth-generation F-X fighter aircraft project, with a consensus on co-operation expected by the end of 2022.

The UK and Japanese governments are to “continue discussions around potential future fighter subsystem collaboration throughout 2022”, under the conditions of a memorandum of collaboration (MOC) signed in December 2021.

Janes had learned that according to the MOC, BAE is to engage with Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), to potentially develop these subsystems. BAE is said to be working “closely with Japanese industry and supporting the UK government in this positive, ongoing process” of discussions.

MHI is the prime Japanese contractor for the F-X project, which plans to replace MHI's own F-2 fighter aircraft by 2035.

The decision to finalise the joint UK-Japan co-operation in the project by December 2022 was made by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a meeting at 10 Downing Street on 5 May.

A statement from the UK government on 5 May said that both leaders had agreed that the “UK and Japan were making significant progress” on the UK's Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and that the “project could become the cornerstone of the UK-Japan bilateral relationship”.

BAE's involvement in the project could potentially extend beyond subsystems. According to a request for information (RFI) connected by a tender issued by Tokyo in August 2020 to select foreign partners for the F-X development phase, responding companies were to demonstrate “technology-readiness level” in capabilities such as fixed-wing aircraft, radar, electronic warfare (EW) equipment, sensors, datalink equipment, and systems integration.

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