England, Italy and Japan want to form a coalition to produce advanced aircraft. Photo/Reuters
LONDON – Japan, Britain and Italy plan to choose the UK as the base for their next generation fighter aircraft program. That puts London at the forefront of a partnership that could expand to include other countries.
The three countries established the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP) in December after Britain and Japan agreed to combine their combat efforts in a breakthrough collaboration aimed at fielding advanced aircraft by the middle of the next decade.
Japan and Britain will dominate design and manufacturing on the project, with London’s deeper and more recent experience in fighter jet development likely to give it a leading role in managing the program.
“The head office will be in the UK, but for balance, someone from Japan could lead it,” said one of the sources, who all asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, as reported by Reuters.
“Discussions regarding the base are ongoing and we cannot comment on its location,” Japan’s defense procurement agency said in an email. The development framework for the fighter will be set in the next fiscal year, he added.
“No final decision has been made regarding the location and we will not comment on speculation,” a British Ministry of Defense spokesman said.
Officials at Italy’s defense ministry could not be reached for comment.
Reuters reported in March that Italy would pay about a fifth of the overall construction costs, which the country’s government deemed “speculative.”
The head of Italian defense and aerospace group Leonardo (LDOF.MI) said Saudi Arabia would not be a core partner in the project, after the Financial Times last month said it was pushing to join.