UK, Japan, and Italy team up to build 6th-Gen fighter plane
The Sixth-Generation fighter plane commonly known as the Tempest has taken a major step toward being reality after Britain, Japan, and Italy signed an international treaty in Tokyo to create a formal partnership to develop a new supersonic aircraft.
The new agreement formally merges the British Tempest and Japan's Mitsubishi F-X projects into a single enterprise along with partner Italy and is the culmination of a complex mixture of international diplomacy and bleeding-edge technology.
First conceived of in 2015, Tempest was Britain's response to being frozen out of France and Germany's Sixth-Gen Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project and was intended to both maintain UK defense independence and its aerospace industry edge. Meanwhile, Japan's Mitsubishi F-X was in direct response to the US' refusal to offer its F-22 interceptor for export, forcing Japan to seek its own stealth air superiority fighter.
In addition to this, the deterioration of global stability and the increasing aggression of Russia and China shifted an emphasis to bolstering the Indo-Pacific region, resulting in Japan and Britain seeking closer cooperation in security areas.
In December 2022, Britain, Japan, and Italy decided to go all-in and pool their resources to field a Sixth-Gen fighter by 2035. Now called the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), the partnership will be headquartered in Britain with a rotating CEO from each partner nation, beginning with Japan.
The UK end will be led by BAE Systems, which is developing the air frame; Rolls-Royce, which is building the advanced jet engine and electrical power system; Leonardo UK, which is providing the avionics and radar; and MBDA UK, which is working on the armaments. Meanwhile, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries along with IHI Corporation will provide additional engine technology and Mitsubishi Electric the advanced electronics. Italy's Leonardo SpA with Avio Aero will contribute to the engines and MBDA IT will help to develop the missile system.
Being a Sixth-Gen fighter means that the new aircraft will boast a laundry list of new technologies and the ability to integrate new weapons not available to current warplanes, including hypersonic missiles.
The Rolls-Royce engine will generate much more electricity than today's. This will allow the new fighter to use lasers and other directed energy weapons. There will also be an augmented reality cockpit where most of the physical displays are replaced by virtual ones projected on the pilot's visor. Not only will this make the cockpit simpler and lighter, it will also allow the controls to be reconfigured for specific missions and to place controls and displays on unorthodox surfaces, such as the pilot's flight suit.
Advanced computer systems will play a major role. The pilot will be rigged with comprehensive biometric and psycho-analytical sensors. This will allow the computers to monitor the pilot's health and detect not only signs of injury or hypoxia, but also stress, confusion, and cognitive overload.
There will also be a high level of autonomy with the plane doing most of the routine functions, leaving the pilot to act more as the mission commander overseeing accompanying drone swarms, loitering munitions, arsenal craft, and other assets. In addition, the radar system will handle 10,000 times more data than existing systems, processing as much data per second as the entire internet traffic of a city the size of Edinburgh.
"Our world-leading combat aircraft program 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," said UK Defence Secretary. "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 defense industries, to deliver an outstanding aircraft."
Source: Ministry of Defence