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UK defence firms take key role in fighter jet project

Leonardo
Leonardo is part of the programme

A number of the UK’s biggest defence companies will be part of a three nation programme to build the next generation fighter aircraft.

The UK, Japan and Italy have today announced the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) which will build on substantial progress already made in the UK by BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the UK Ministry of Defence.

They have been working in partnership since 2018 as Team Tempest to research, evaluate and develop a host of next generation future combat air systems capabilities.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The security of the United Kingdom, both today and for future generations, will always be of paramount importance to this Government.

“That’s why we need to stay at the cutting-edge of advancements in defence technology – outpacing and out-manoeuvring those who seek to do us harm.

“The international partnership we have announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that, underlining that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions are indivisible.

The Tempest is a next generation fighter jet

“The next-generation of combat aircraft we design will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the strength of our world-beating defence industry – creating jobs while saving lives.”

Charles Woodburn, chief executive BAE Systems, said: “The launch of the Global Combat Air Programme firmly positions the UK, alongside Japan and Italy, as leaders in the design, development and production of next generation combat air capability.

“With our UK industry partners, we look forward to strengthening our ties with Japanese and Italian industries as we work together to deliver this programme of huge importance to our global defence and security.”

Mark Hamilton, managing director electronics UK, Leonardo, said: “The emergence of a single international programme, backed by three Governments, represents a major point of maturity for our shared combat air vision and a strong vote of confidence in the readiness of industry to deliver the programme.

“At Leonardo, we are privileged to be a core part of this endeavour.”

A report published last year by analysts at PwC concluded that should the UK take a core role in a next generation fighter jet programme, it could expect to support an average of 21,000 jobs a year and contribution an estimated £26.2bn to the economy by 2050.


In the UK, around 2,500 people are already working on the programme as part of Team Tempest and wider industry. Beyond the Team Tempest partners, more than 580 organisations are already on contract across the UK, including 91 SMEs and 26 academic institutions.

The Team Tempest partners have recruited more than 1,000 apprentices and graduates since the launch of the project in 2018, with young people nationwide inspired by the opportunity to be part of a once-in-a-generation combat air programme.

The UK industry partners have already generated strong working relationships with their counterparts in Italy and Japan, which will progress into the new joint development. These include IHI Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, and Avio Aero, Elettronica and Leonardo in Italy.

It is expected that GCAP will generate long-term technological, industrial and social benefits for the three partner countries and inspire the next generation of engineering talent.

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