Japan could become partner nation on UK-led future fighter effort, says program director

Isa Khan

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LONDON — Japan could be the next partner nation for the trinational, British-led next-generation fighter program, an official hinted at the DSEI arms trade show in London.

The United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy are jointly developing cutting-edge technologies to feed into the Future Combat Air System effort. The FCAS is to eventually lead to a core fighter aircraft and a raft of new capabilities alongside it by 2035.

Since 2020, Japan has partnered on elements of the program, but military and industry officials at the biennial DSEI conference in London hinted that the relationship could develop further within the next few years.

The program — also referred to as Tempest, and separate from the Franco-German-Spanish effort also known as FCAS — is working with Japan on the technological initiative, said the U.K. program director, Air Commodore Johnny Moreton.

“We’ve been in negotiation, conversations and some pilot projects — nothing necessarily too complex at the moment,” he said while moderating a Wednesday panel on the program’s advantages through international alliances at the conference.

In July, the Japanese government announced that the two countries had pledged to jointly develop new engine technologies that could inform both the London-led FCAS program, and Tokyo’s F-X effort to build a new sixth-generation fighter jet.

“We’re doing a joint engine viability study with Japan at the moment, and that’s quite exciting,” Moreton said. “They have an F-X program that has a very similar time frame to us, 2035; the threat is very similar to the one that we are anticipating, and in terms of an industrial nation, clearly they sit at the top table, as do we.”

The United Kingdom and Japan might extend the partnership beyond engine technologies, into electronic warfare and radar capabilities, he noted. However, those are “very much at a minor stage at this point,” he added.

Last year, the U.K., Sweden and Italy signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the FCAS project, involving their national industry partners BAE Systems, Saab and Leonardo, respectively.

While Moreton emphasized that the British military’s work with Japan was an “exploratory partnership” during the panel, the static display of a possible FCAS cockpit just feet away from the podium on the DSEI exhibition floor had four national flags hanging distinctly above it.

The close, if still unofficial, partnership between the United Kingdom and Japan on FCAS-related technologies demonstrates that “where we see opportunity across the world, we are prepared to embrace” it, Moreton said.

While the FCAS allies and their industry teams are working together to develop the next-generation technologies, the concept of “freedom of modification” — where each country has the ability to make its own changes to the future aircraft and systems — also remains paramount.

“We want to be able to upgrade, advance [and] develop our capabilities ourselves, and as sovereign countries inside the partnership, each partner has that goal,” Moreton said.

Japan’s participation is a clear example of that dynamic, said Guglielmo Maviglia, senior vice president for Leonardo’s Tempest program.

“Trying to tightly bound all of this [effort] into a single partnership, I think, is a mistake anyway,” he said on the panel. “So leaving the flexibility for other partners to join is really important, and Japan provides us with our first test of that.”

On July 29, the British Defence MInistry announced a £250 million (U.S. $346 million) contract to launch the FCAS concept and assessment phase with its “Team Tempest” partners. The nation plans to spend about £2 billion on the program over the next four years, the government said. The contract was awarded to a U.K. industry team led by BAE Systems, which includes Rolls-Royce and the British arms of Leonardo and MBDA.

The FCAS team will continue this phase over the next several years, with plans to define and begin the design of FCAS, mature system technologies, invest in a skilled workforce, and secure the digital and physical infrastructure needed by 2024.

“The purpose of this phase is to look at the concepts [and] make an assessment of the program,” Moreton said. “And then, in late ‘24, go to our governments — Italy, Sweden, U.K. in this case, and potentially Japan — and say: ‘This is the program. This is what we can deliver. This is the timeline and the capability.’ And we’ll move forward from there.”

 

xizhimen

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LoL , Japan and no money , Chinese make good jokes but this in best .

Dude , British can make it but not Japan ??
Japan's GDP today is smaller than what it was in 1995, less than one third of China's. and I don't think Britain has fifth Gen jets yet.
 

RogerRanger

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Japan doesn't have the money and resources to do it alone, it's super costly.
It's not that Japan doesn't have the money, its more that Japan has been building copies of American aircraft and doesn't have the design and development industry to do its own program. Another thing is how many aircraft would the Japanese need, at most 200. If you fold the programs together that's likely 600-800 aircraft.
 
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Manomed

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Indeed. the F-35 is the second best jet in the world with the best avionics. So it doesn't matter if its the A-B-C type, its still going to dominate the sky's.
But I still hope to see british army being mighty again making their own jets etc. Keep up the local defence Industry again like in the old days God save the queen.
 

Gary

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Anyway the brits should help Japan in the XF9 engine dev.

Current thrust at 147kN is quite low compared to the final goal of achieving 200kN.

Rolls Royce could be a massive help here.
 

RogerRanger

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But I still hope to see british army being mighty again making their own jets etc. Keep up the local defence Industry again like in the old days God save the queen.
We can't really do that now, its too late. We will be under the thumb of the Americans for a while now. Though I do appreciate your kind and respectful words. Let me know if there is a similar Turkish phrase I can use to 'God Save The Queen'.
 

RogerRanger

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Russia developed by itself , also thanks are there , I don't see a issue there
Japan is a collection of islands, with no natural resources. Russia is a vast territory with huge natural resources. China is the same as Russia. US is the same as Russia/China. Its hard for smaller territories with little natural resources to build their own independent industries. Britain did it because we found vast amounts of coal and we had oak tree's. Once the world moves to oil and gas Britain was weakened, until we found north sea oil and gas, which we have for the most part squandered as part of the American/EU alliance.
 

xizhimen

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Russia developed by itself , also thanks are there , I don't see a issue there
Russia has a tradition of investing heavily on defence industry due to its previous superpower status, and Russia has a powerful defence industry inherited from USSR, Japan doesn't.
 

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