Saudi Arabia has signed a partnership agreement with the United Kingdom to explore the possibility of joining the UK-led Future Combat Air System program.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman tweeted the announcement on March 1, 2023, saying that he had signed a declaration of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to participate in the 6th generation fighter jet development program, which merges the Tempest and F-X developments.
Not to be confused with the Future Combat Air System being developed by France, Germany and Spain, the similarly named FCAS unites Italy and Sweden and aims to develop an air combat system centered around the Tempest fighter jet. In December 2022 the team was joined by Japan.
On March 2, 2023, the UK government issued a press release elaborating on the announcement, adding that the statement of intent does not mean Saudi Arabia has joined the program.
According to the release, the statement is aimed at initiating a Partnering Feasibility Study to explore the possibility of improving the “combat air relationship” between the countries.
The UK-led FCAS program is one of several efforts to develop a 6th generation fighter jet, along with the European FCAS and several Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programs in the United States overseen by the US Air Force and Navy.