The UK is to work with Italy and Japan on the next generation of combat air fighter jets through an unprecedented international aerospace coalition.

The Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) is a new partnership that aims to adapt and respond to the security threats of the future.

The UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, will visit an RAF base on Friday to launch the first major phase of the programme, which aims to harness the combined expertise and strength of the countries’ defence technology industries to push the boundaries of what has been achieved in aerospace engineering.

In the skies by 2035

Due to take to the skies by 2035, the ambition is for this to be a next-generation jet enhanced by a network of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft, advanced sensors, cutting-edge weapons and innovative data systems.

By combining forces with Italy and Japan on the next phase of the programme, the UK will utilise their expertise, share costs and ensure the RAF remains interoperable with our closest partners.

The project is expected to create high-skilled jobs in all three countries, strengthening our industrial base and driving innovation with benefits beyond pure military use.


Sunak said: “The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this government.

“That’s why we need to stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and out-manoeuvring those who seek to do us harm.”

It is anticipated that more likeminded countries may buy into GCAP in due course or collaborate on wider capabilities.

The combat aircraft developed through GCAP is also expected to be compatible with other NATO partners’ fighter jets.

Core platform concept

The UK, Italy and Japan will now work intensively to establish the core platform concept and set up the structures needed to deliver this massive defence project, ready to launch the development phase in 2025.

Ahead of the development phase, partners will also agree the cost-sharing arrangements based on a joint assessment of costs and national budgets.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This international partnership with Italy and Japan to create and design the next-generation of combat aircraft, represents the best collaboration of cutting edge defence technology and expertise shared across our nations, providing highly skilled jobs across the sector and long-term security for Britain and our allies.”
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