His announcement was accompanied by a set of bombastic images – Copyright British Prime Minister’s Office/AFP Handout
Katie Forster Tomohiro OSAKI
Japan, Britain and Italy said on Friday they will jointly develop a next-generation fighter jet in a project that has prospects for future cooperation with allies, including the United States.
The new aircraft, due to be ready by 2035, is expected to combine nations’ current research into cutting-edge air combat technology, from stealthy capability to high-tech sensors.
In a joint statement, the three countries said the “ambitious effort” would “accelerate our advanced military capability and technological advantage” at a time when “threats and aggression are increasing” around the world.
His announcement was accompanied by a set of images showing an artist’s impression of the sleek new planes flying over Mount Fuji and over London and Rome.
They did not give a cost estimate, but the three countries are already investing billions of dollars in the development of high-tech combat aircraft, efforts that will come together under the joint project, called the Global Combat Air Program.
“We share (an) ambition for this aircraft to be the centerpiece of a broader combat air system that will work across multiple domains,” the statement said.
That includes “future interoperability with the United States, with NATO and with our partners” in Europe, Asia and around the world, he explained.
The US Department of Defense said it supported the project in a separate joint statement with the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
“We have begun important collaboration through a series of discussions on the capabilities of autonomous systems, which could complement Japan’s upcoming combat program among other platforms,” the US-Japan statement said.
The announcement comes with Japan about to undergo the biggest review of its security strategy in decades.
The government plans to increase defense spending, a controversial move in a nation whose constitution limits military capability to ostensibly self-protective measures.
But the war in Ukraine, repeated missile launches from North Korea and mounting pressure from China have helped build support for a bigger budget.
A Japanese Defense Ministry official said the new fighter jet was aimed at surpassing the capabilities of existing models such as the US F-35.
While the full cost has not been finalized, it will not be borne precisely equally among the three countries, the official added.
Japan’s Nikkei business daily said companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, BAE Systems and Leonardo will oversee the new project, which is Tokyo’s second joint development after its SM-3 missile made with Washington.
The project is the latest high-profile example of allied countries collaborating ad-hoc to develop defense equipment.
However, such moves proved controversial last year, when the United States snatched a lucrative contract to supply Australia with submarines from under the French nose and launched a new US-UK-Australia alliance in the Pacific dubbed AUKUS.