TOKYO: Japan, Britain and Italy announced on Friday they will jointly develop a next-generation fighter jet by 2035, Tokyo’s first such defence cooperation with countries other than the United States, a key security ally.
The countries’ leaders said in their joint statement that they will “build on our long-standing defense relationship” through the fighter development program, which will “accelerate our advanced military capability and technological advantage”,as well as further strengthen their supply chains and defence industrial base.
Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Britain’s BAE Systems Plc. will mainly be responsible for the development, Japanese government officials said. Japan plans to deploy 100 new fighters in 2035 to succeed its aging F-2 fighter of the Air Self-Defense Force, which will begin retiring the same year, according to the officials.
For Britain and Italy, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the new fighter will replace their combined 240 Eurofighter jets, they said. “We share the ambition for this aircraft to be the centerpiece of a wider combat air system that will function across multiple domains,” they said.
Tokyo has been promoting its security ties with Nato states, such as France and Germany. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended the Nato summit in June, where he stressed the need for Japan-Nato cooperation to cope with potential threats from authoritarian nations such as Russia and China.
Japan is also considering exporting the new warplane to other countries in the future, according to the officials. To facilitate weapon exports, the Japanese government is expected to seek a revision of its strict guidelines regarding exporting defense equipment when it updates its national security policy next week.
The stringent rules have long been maintained under Japan’s pacifist Constitution. The Japanese Defense Ministry and the US Defence Department also issued a joint statement Friday, in which Washington expressed its support for Tokyo’s fighter development project with the European partners.
“We have begun important collaboration through a series of discussions on autonomous system capabilities, which could complement Japan’s next fighter program among other platforms,” they said.
The two nations agreed to start concrete cooperation to this end next, which the Japanese officials said will entail research and development of drones capable of supporting the new jet’s operations. Japan had initially sought collaboration with US defence firms to develop new fighters, but decided to look for other partners due to strict US rules on information confidentiality
Source: Bangkok Post