The U.K. government announced on Thursday that it has signed a treaty with Japan and Italy for the Global Combat Air Programme to advance the development of a next-generation stealth jetfighter. U.K. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, along with his counterparts, Japan’s Minister Minoru Kihara and Italy’s Minister Guido Crosetto, signed the treaty in Tokyo.
GCAP’s lead private sector proponents are U.K. company BAE Systems, Italy’s Leonardo and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Other British firms involved in the program, which the three countries launched in December 2022, include Rolls-Royce and MBDA UK, a unit of the pan-European missile systems company MBDA.
Under the treaty, the United Kingdom will host GCAP’s joint government headquarters, with its first CEO coming from Japan. The headquarters’ roles include enhancing each country’s strengths in the combat air industry.
The British defense secretary said that with the U.K. headquarters, important decisions can be made “collaboratively and at pace” among GCAP country and industry partners.
GCAP plans to launch the jetfighter’s development phase in 2025 and expects the combat aircraft’s inaugural flight in 2035.
The program seeks to employ emerging technologies to develop advanced, interoperable and adaptable jetfighters with connectivity for global operations. Envisioned as a supersonic jet, the aircraft will feature a radar capable of providing 10,000 times more data than current systems to gain a combat advantage.
The U.K. government said GCAP is expected to create hundreds of high-skilled jobs in Britain and partner countries over the next decade and onward.