Japan, Britain and Italy to Establish New Organization to Develop Jet Fighter

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
A concept model of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP)’s fighter jet is displayed at the DSEI Japan defense show at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Japan March 15, 2023.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan, Britain and Italy will sign a treaty in Tokyo next week to establish a joint organization and industry group for developing their planned advanced jet fighter, three sources with direct knowledge of the plans said.

An inter-government body will oversee the industry group venture led by Britain’s BAE Systems PLC BAES.L, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 7011.T and Italy’s Leonardo LDOF.MI. That group will distribute work to teams in different parts of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), such as the engine and avionics, the sources said.

They asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Reuters in March reported that Japan and Britain would dominate GCAP, with about a 40% share of the work each. Rome dismissed that as “speculative.”

Japan’s defense ministry declined to comment. Officials at the British and Italian embassies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The agreement, which parliaments of each country must ratify, will come a year after they established their first major defense industry collaboration by merging the separate next-generation fighter efforts of London and Tokyo.

Someone from Japan may lead the project initially, and the management will rotate among the three countries, two of the sources said. Japan’s leading candidate for that job is Masami Oka, and adviser to the defense ministry who retired as vice minister of international affairs in July, they added.

Oka did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The three countries plan to choose Britain as GCAP’s headquarters, Reuters reported in September.

GCAP may also welcome other nations as junior partners, with Saudi Arabia among the contenders because it would bring money and a lucrative market to a project expected to cost tens of billions of dollars.

Other companies involved in the project include European missile maker MBDA, Japanese avionics manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric Corp 6503.T, and engine makers Rolls-Royce PLC RROYC.UL, IHI Corp 7013.T, and Avio Aero.