UK to build next generation of stealth fighter jet in deal with Japan and Italy, with HQ to be in Britain

14 December 2023, 06:17

The UK, Japan and Italy have agreed to build the Tempest jet
The UK, Japan and Italy have agreed to build the Tempest jet. Picture: Team Tempest/Alamy

By Kit Heren

The UK will host the development of the next generation of stealth fighter jet for the first time, in a deal with Japan and Italy.

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Work is set to begin on developing the Tempest class of jets in 2025, with the planes, a successor to RAF Typhoon, expected to be ready by 2035.

The jets will be developed in a partnership called the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), which will be headquartered in the UK.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps flew to Tokyo to sign the deal with his Japanese and Italian counterparts on Thursday.

Mr Shapps said: "Our world-leading combat aircraft programme aims to be crucial to global security and we continue to make hugely positive progress toward delivery of the new jets to our respective air forces in 2035.

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How the jet could look
How the jet could look. Picture: Team Tempest

"The UK-based headquarters will also see us make important decisions collaboratively and at pace, working with our close partners Italy and Japan, and our impressive defence industries, to deliver an outstanding aircraft."

Rishi Sunak announced the joint international efforts to build military planes with supersonic capability and cutting-edge technology a year ago.

The Tempest will have a radar that can provide 10,000 times more data than existing fighter jets, the Ministry of Defence said.

Pilots will be able to use virtual reality in the aircraft's digital cockpit, and the on-board weapons system will deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning for maximum efficiency.

Artist's impression
Artist's impression. Picture: Team Tempest

The government has spent £2 billion on the project up to 2025, a figure announced in 2021.

While the headquarters of the GCAP will be in the UK, its chief executive will be Japanese.

Contracts have been awarded to BAE Systems, working with Leonardo UK, missile maker MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce, as well as industry partners from Japan and Italy.

This is the first time a new fighter jet will be developed and built in the UK since the Harrier, the Telegraph reported.

Britain's Defence Minister Grant Shapps, right, Italy's Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, left, and Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara, centre, shake hands on Thursday
Britain's Defence Minister Grant Shapps, right, Italy's Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, left, and Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara, centre, shake hands on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

It comes as the UK begins to focus more on the Indo-Pacific region.

Rishi Sunak signed the Hiroshima Accord with Japan earlier this year amid concerns about Chinese activity in the Pacific. The agreement pledged a stronger defence relationship between London and Tokyo.

Saudi Arabia has asked to join the GCAP. Britain is backing the move but Japan has been resistant.

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