Britain Working With Japan On A New Aviation Program

Following 2020’s Brexit, Britain is pursuing a contemporary aviation program with a newfound partner outside of the European Union. On July 14th, it was reported that Britain and Japan were close to an agreement to merge their Tempest and F-X fighter jet programs, with a goal to finalize a deal on a new joint project by the end of the year. Soon thereafter, on July 18th, Britain announced its collaboration with Japan and its existing partner, Italy, on its fighter jet initiative. This joint concept analysis is expected to lead to decisions on deeper partnerships between the countries and will explore further potential partnership options with the U.K.’s Future Combat Air project.

At the opening of the Farnborough Airshow on July 18th, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated, “I am a passionate believer in the potential of our burgeoning partnership, not just with Italy, but with Japan.” Britain and B.A.E. Systems, its leading defense partner, said that a Tempest demonstrator would fly within the next five years, aiming for the fighter to be fully in service by 2035. At the airshow, Richard Berthon, U.K. Director of Future Combat Air, told reporters, “the extent of the alignment we found with Japan, both on the military side, on the engineering side, and on the investment side is fantastic.” He added that the extent of the collaboration is still being determined, and that, “we are exploring what the level of ambition and the scope of our cooperation will be.”

Joining Japan’s F-X program and Tempest would be the first time Tokyo has sought a non-U.S. partner for a large military programme and would deepen security ties between the two countries. Partnerships in this capacity can foster a positive environment, not only for scientific advancements but also for thriving amicable relations. Expanding networks of communication through technology can act as a remarkable gateway to the further establishment of diplomatic alliances. 

Tempest is one of a competing series of sixth-generation fighters in development globally and one of two European projects for the next generation of air power, alongside the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System, which is currently in divisions between partners. In reference to the rival European initiative, Berthon said, “I think we have a really solid foundation and we’re open to conversations [with other partners] as time goes by,” though he also made note of Tempest’s small range of partners being attributed to its “very aggressive” timeline.

It is too early to definitively predict the outcomes of the aviation partnership between Japan, Italy, and Britain. Though there is undoubtedly an opportunity for technological development, advancements, and peace, in the same breath there is room for regression, misinterpretation, and malignancy. As each country continues to expand its international relationships, it should strive for diplomatic and amicable bonds. So long as these countries expand their militaries on the basis of advancing technology and improving relations, rather than for clout or supremacy, the partnership can certainly prove beneficial. 

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