Posted 12 декабря 2022,, 13:41

Published 12 декабря 2022,, 13:41

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Getting well without the United States: Japan will build a future fighter with Britain and Italy

Getting well without the United States: Japan will build a future fighter with Britain and Italy

12 декабря 2022, 13:41
Tokyo has finally found partners to develop the sixth generation fighter. The Global Combat Aviation Program (GCAP) agreement was signed with the UK and Italy. By 2025, three countries intend to start building aircraft

Alexander Sychev

The conclusion of the relevant agreement was preceded by many years of negotiations between Japan and the United States. Tokyo considers America its closest ally and patron and, naturally, turned to Washington with a request to accept the sixth generation fighter into the American program.

The Japanese believed that they could be useful to the "big brother" with their technologies and industrial capacities. In addition, the experience of cooperation in the field of armaments has already been accumulated. Washington, for example, attracted Japanese specialists to develop an electromagnetic mass accelerator that accelerates a conductive projectile along two metal guides, the so-called "rail gun". Based on the American F-16, the Japanese built their current F-2 fighter.

However, in Washington, obviously, they considered that the railgun, with which the Americans did not succeed, and in which they almost lost faith, and the F-16 cannot be compared with the sixth generation fighter. Even with a faithful ally, such developments should not be shared. They said so to Tokyo, they say, friendship is friendship ... Like, the time will come, and we will gladly sell the future fighter to you.

But the Japanese no longer want to remain a net buyer of weapons. Tokyo has long been undergoing a process of quiet militarization, the purpose of which is to establish the development and production of its own weapons systems, and to increase the military significance of the country. With a stroke of the pen, Japan has increased its defense budget to two percent of GDP, about double what Tokyo has invested in its military in the past. Previously, Japan had a ban on the export of defense products. These restrictions have now been significantly relaxed.

It could be assumed that the United States is afraid to contribute to the revival of Japanese militarism. But, most likely, they simply do not want to share their technological achievements with big-headed Japanese.

For the Americans, the main thing in this whole story is not how not to offend the feelings of a partner, but that he remains in unconditional submission to the will of Washington. Evidence of this was the simultaneous publication of a Japanese statement on the beginning of cooperation with the Europeans and a joint statement by the Japanese defense ministries and the Pentagon. In particular, it says that Washington allows Tokyo to cooperate "in the field of security and defense with like-minded people and partners, including Great Britain and Italy ... in the development of the next fighter".

With permission secured, Tokyo carefully considered the options available for partnerships in Europe. The Franco-German-Spanish triumvirate only in early December was able to overcome the contradictions in the development of the sixth generation fighter. And that seems to be more on paper. Paris and Bonn cannot overcome their mutual suspicions of wanting to profit at someone else's expense and agree on shares in the project. As a result, at the moment, the three countries have only mock-ups and some common ideas in their hands.

Great Britain and the British division of the Italian company Leonardo have not yet shown mutual distrust. London has been considered the undisputed leader from the very beginning, having started the creation of its aircraft under the Team Tempest program in 2018.

Today, after Italy joined the project at the state level, it was renamed the Global Combat Air Program (Global Combat Aviation Program, GCAP). Now, in addition to Leonardo, the Italian companies Avio Aero, Elettronica and MBDA Italia also participate in the program.

The two countries were happy to accept Japan's proposal. First, there is an additional source of funding. The sixth generation aircraft is not a cheap toy. The Italians even offered Germany and France to merge their program with the British one. But in Bonn and Paris, after a high-profile divorce suit with the European Union arranged by London, the idea was rejected.

Secondly, Japanese technology and developed industry are a serious help. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) led a program to build a Japanese X-2 fighter jet demonstrator that first flew in 2016. This aircraft was designed for use in Japan's future FX fighter program. The resulting developments, apparently, will be used in the GCAP program.

And Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) has been cooperating with the British Rolls-Royce in the development of an aircraft engine since 2021. So, from the UK's point of view, bringing in Italy and especially Japan as full partners will only increase London's access to advanced defense technology and financial resources.

Now the partners will have to bring together their vision of the parameters of the future aircraft, the existing developments, as well as establish how and where the fighter will be built, and how the costs and, accordingly, income will be distributed.

The British government has high and long-standing hopes for the Tempest/GCAP project. It is presented as a "national project" to create a large number of new high-tech jobs.

By taking on a major role in the future combat aviation system, the UK could potentially create about 21,000 jobs, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an audit firm. The implementation of this program alone can bring the country's economy about 26.2 billion pounds by 2050.

Successful projects are critical to London. The country is facing a severe economic downturn brought on by Brexit, sanctions against Russia and massive funding for arms supplies to Ukraine. Due to economic difficulties, many defense programs have already suffered, whose funding has been cut.

Therefore, the British will try to concentrate a significant part of the development and initial production on the territory of their country. Moreover, BAE Systems has built a new "factory of the future" in Lancashire. There, in particular, 3D printing machines and autonomous robots are installed.

However, Leonardo, which builds the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Japan's MHI will no doubt insist on setting up their own production lines. The governments of these countries also need jobs and need to develop the aerospace industry. Each of the three countries will also count on a share of the future aircraft sales. However, whether there will be anything to share is a question. Today, European fighters have lost almost all major contracts to the Americans.

We still have to agree on a lot of issues. In the meantime, the consortium's plans are as follows: full-scale development of the aircraft should begin in 2025, and a demonstration sample is planned to be launched into the air in 2027.