Japan and UK may merge sixth-gen fighter programs

Tempest and F-X fighters could become a joint project, supported by Italy and Sweden, according to report

An unexpected military partnership between Japan and the UK could be formalized soon, according to Reuters. The two countries are close to an agreement to combine their sixth-gen Tempest and F-X fighter programs by the end of this year.

The agency cites three unnamed sources as saying that parties to the deal are looking for options to reduce development costs as well as aircraft prices.

Japan’s F-X program is managed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries while Tempest is designed under the leadership of BAE Systems. Italy and Sweden are also partners with the British in the sixth-generation fighter project, represented by Leonardo and SAAB, respectively.

“The main thing that we are aiming for is to build a common jet, that there may be small differences in design for each country,” said one of the sources. One of the proposed aspects involves the export of the fighter in Europe by the United Kingdom while Japan would offer the aircraft in the Asian market.

For Japan, a collaborative project with the UK is an unusual move as it would be the first time the nation has sought a non-US partner for a military program since the end of World War II.

Tempest should replace Eurofighter Typhoon by mid-2030s (BAe)

The possible deal would split the program equally between Japan and the UK. The cost of the F-X program is estimated at around $40 billion while Tempest has a budget of £2 billion ($2.38 billion) through 2025.

The merger of the fighters programs could be a serious blow to another 6th generation program, the FCAS (Future Combat Air System), led by France and Germany and with the participation of Spain.

In recent months, Airbus and Dassault have hampered the evolution of the project by vying for space in the program, which also involves an unmanned combat aircraft and cloud software capable of controlling the integration between the systems.

All 6th generation fighter programs aim for entry into service in the mid-2030s.