Japan, U.K., Italy to jointly develop fighter aircraft

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An F-2 fighter jet of the Air Self-Defense Force

Japan, the U.K. and Italy plan to jointly develop a fighter jet for their respective air forces, with the aim of deploying it around 2035. A joint statement is expected to be made on Friday.

Japan aims to introduce a successor to its F-2 fighter in the mid-2030s, when the aircraft will be retired, and the U.K. had planned to deploy the Tempest, the successor to its mainstay Eurofighter Typhoon, in actual combat by 2035. Since the two countries have almost the same performance requirements, such as stealth features and high-performance radar, and their development periods overlap, the Japanese and British governments were making final arrangements for the joint development. The U.K. was planning to jointly develop the Tempest with Italy, which is why Italy will also take part in the project.

The development team is expected to be led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and BAE Systems, a major British aerospace and defense company. The team will oversee the overall design of the aircraft and system development, and the Japanese side has been able to secure the flexibility in modifications that they had been emphasizing. Italy is expected to have Leonardo, another major aerospace and defense company, participate in the project, along with other companies.

The three countries aim to procure a total of about 300 aircraft for themselves and to export the finished product overseas. In Japan, the Three Principles of Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and operational guidelines have been a stumbling block to exports, and the government and ruling parties have been in close talks to review them.