Japan, UK, Italy team up to build next-gen fighter

STORY: Japan, Britain and Italy are getting together in a bid to rule the skies.

The three nations said Friday (December 9) they were merging their projects to build a next-generation stealth fighter.

Britain and Italy were already working together on the Future Combat Air System, also called Tempest.

Now Japan’s F-X programme will become part of the effort.

Together it’s meant to deliver a fast, stealthy jet with powerful artificial intelligence and cyber-warfare capabilities.

The leading firms involved will be Britain’s BAE Systems, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Leonardo of Italy.

Joining forces should help share the multi-billion costs.

But details are yet to be worked out on how work will be shared, and where development will take place.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says the benefits are clear though:

"We're one of the few countries in the world that has the capability to build technologically advanced fighter aircraft. That's important because it means we can keep the country safe from the new threats that we face. It also adds billions to our economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs across the country."

For Japan the move marks a big change.

It’s the first time the country has collaborated on a major defense project with anyone except the U.S. since the end of World War Two.

It’s also part of a major military buildup by the country.

Tokyo is this month expected to unveil plans that will see defense spending double over five years.

Other countries could yet join the new initiative, which aims to take the plane from mockup to operational by 2035.

However, France, Germany and Spain are currently pursuing their own fighter project.

Washington welcomed Friday’s news, though it meant Japan dropping earlier plans to build a jet with U.S. firm Lockheed Martin.