Towards a Tempest/F-X merger? UK to help Japan develop new fighter
The United Kingdom and Japan will collaborate on the development of the F-X fighter, which is due to replace the F-2 currently being flown by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
According to local media Sankei, British aerospace manufacturer BAE Systems will help Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is leading the program. This partnership follows a previous announcement, according to which Rolls- Royce was to assist IHI Corporation with developing the XF9 engine to power the F-X.
Japan’s next-generation fighter jet will replace the Mitsubishi F-2, a Japanese version of the F-16, currently operated by the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. Plans are for a twin-engine stealth fighter whose design will include the research done on the experimental X-2 Shinshin, a canceled fifth-generation fighter jet program. The upcoming aircraft is set to be operational by 2035.
A similar collaboration was announced in late 2020 with the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the discussions appear to have stalled over technology transfer issues. Such concern would not be a first: In 1997, the U.S. Congress blocked the export of the F-22 Raptor despite strong interest from Japan, as technologies inside the fighter were judged too critical.
The United States may still be involved in other aspects of the F-X program, such as the development of unmanned combat aircraft that would act as a force multiplier.
During a visit in April 2022, the Italian Minister of Defense, Lorenzo Guerini, also expressed interest in joining the development of the F-X. As a reminder, Italy and the United Kingdom are both involved with Sweden in the Tempest fighter program. The project involves the British companies BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, the European missile manufacturer MBDA, and the Italian defense group Leonardo.
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