The UK, Japan and Italy are collaborating to form a trilateral aerospace coalition to develop their next-generation fighter aircraft jointly. Known as the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), the joint effort will allow the countries’ forces to prepare for future security threats. 

Italy and Japan announced their participation in the UK-led GCAP effort in December last year.

Leading military supplier partners are engaged in the development of sixth-generation aircraft, with companies such as BAE SystemsLeonardo, Rolls Royce, IHI, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are participating. 

The project will rival France, Germany, and Spain’s joint efforts to develop their Future Combat Air System (SCAF) fighter.

A potential issue with joint weapons programmes is the complexity of the management system due to the different stakeholders, which can result in slow decision-making.

On an official visit to Japan on 15 March, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace discussed the importance of long-term industry partnerships for the international initiative. “I’m excited not only because it’s a great partnership of these three nations, bridging Europe and the Pacific, but also because we’re one of the first to lead the sixth-generation development.

“We’re going to unlock paths and new technologies, new platforms, export markets and potential new partners, but lock in a strategic partnership of liberal open democracies who believe in the rule of law and upholding international values across the world that are threatened so strongly today.”

The UK recently announced another 20–40-year project with AUKUS on developing next-generation nuclear attack submarines for Australia.

The vision is to develop a combat jet integrated with a network of capabilities, including advanced sensors, uncrewed aircraft, weapons and innovative data systems. “The next milestone this year is the agreement of the systems requirements,” Wallace said. 

Once the first phase is complete, the programme will enter the development phase in 2025, while the aircraft is expected to start operating in 2035.

UK company finds partner in Japan

British military fast jet manufacturer, Aeralis announced on 14 March that they had announced a partnership with the Japanese aircraft manufacturer, ShinMaywa, showing the wheels are in motion for the collaboration of the sixth-generation aircraft. 

The UK aircraft manufacturer Aeralis is developing a military training aircraft that will be compatible with advanced systems that are likely to be found in sixth-generation fighter jets.

Aeralis CEO, Tristan Crawford, said: “Today’s signing between AERALIS and ShinMaywa represents a significant step in the future of aviation design and international collaboration. We are incredibly proud of the pioneering work that AERALIS is doing in this space, and to work with such a distinguished company in the aerospace industry is a testament to this.”