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UK and Italy’s sixth-generation aircraft program confirms Japan in major win, says Globaldata

Following the news that the Tempest program will be combined with Japan’s F-X program as the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP); William Davies, Aerospace Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view: “This alliance shows the commitments of major nations to developing sixth-generation aircraft. For Japan, this is a significant move away from its historical reliance on US aircraft. The decision to work with the UK and Italy over the US is a major win for the GCAP program.


“The GCAP will provide a commercial rival to the US’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program and the European FCAS program. Its potential use by a variety of nations will provide a sharing of cost, however, its price tag is likely to be high, and countries involved will have to make tough decisions about defense spending.


“Bringing Japan on board will not only be a significant boost to the program, due to the increased industrial capacity, but it will increase the available budget. Extra cash is much needed, given the overall program costs of next-generation aircraft. The US Air Force requested $1.7 billion for NGAD research and development in 2023, and through to 2027, the total expected cost is $11.7 billion. These high costs are also reflected in the Tempest and FCAS programs, which are estimated to cost $2.38 billion until 2025 (Tempest) and $103.4 billion for total development (FCAS).


“I doubt that Japan will be the last country added to the GCAP program, as the more partners the program collects, the greater the cost-saving measures.”


“The program will allow partner nations to make design choices to meet specific needs, and also create jobs and commercial opportunities in their respective countries. The program will also involve equal partnerships between domestic companies, including BAE Systems in the UK, Leonardo in Italy, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan. This will bolster domestic industries and provide global partnerships, rather than the solely European alliances that were formed under the previous Tempest program.”

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