The demise of UK participation in joint European programmes post Brexit????
Japan-UK Fighter Project Sign Of Closer Defense Partnership | Defense content from Aviation Week
Britain and Japan will look at jointly developing a fighter, probably for entry into service in the 2030s. The surprising move is the latest bringing the two countries closer in defense technology.
Even if an Anglo-Japanese fighter does not emerge in the end, BAE Systems is likely to be interested in assisting Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in an indigenous combat aircraft program. But in seeking cooperation, Tokyo probably hopes for a cost-sharing national partner, not just a heavy-lifting technical advisor.
This may be a problem for France, the nation probably most inclined to work with the UK on a new fighter. The two have already agreed to do technology-acquisition work together.
Tokyo and London will begin by exchanging information on the ambitions for their current, preliminary projects: the Japanese Future Fighter and Britain’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). In assessing the feasibility of a joint program, they will also advise each other of their capabilities, says the Japanese Defense Ministry, presumably meaning they will lay their technology cards on the table.......
The UK is shaping up as Japan’s closest defense-technology partner after the U.S. The two countries agreed in 2012 to strengthen bilateral cooperation, even before Tokyo formally said in 2014, after years of discussion, that it would allow arms exports under limited circumstances. The export decision made joint development and manufacturing possible because Japanese companies could now make parts for a partner. In 2016, the two governments said they would look at integrating an advanced Japanese seeker on the MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile, development of which has been led by the UK.
The defense ministry in Tokyo gives no time frame for entry into service of the contemplated joint fighter, but the national schedules do not look too far out of step. Japan needs the Future Fighter to be ready in the 2030s as a replacement for the MHI F-2. The Eurofighter Typhoon is due to leave Royal Air Force (RAF) service before 2040; a replacement will have to be ready a few years before that.
After Japan and Britain understand each other’s fighter requirements and technologies, they will decide by late this year whether to proceed with a joint study for a fighter, says The Nikkei
A crucial difference between the two sides could be regarding whether their next combat aircraft needs a pilot. Years of Future Fighter studies, the most recent of which is a concept design called 26DMU, have all envisaged a manned aircraft, because Japanese defense technologists think air-to-air combat is just too complex for a computer program. But FCAS work has focused on an unmanned jet. Underlining this point, Japan is flying a subscale demonstrator for a manned fighter, the MHI X-2, whereas Britain has been evaluating its technologies with the unmanned BAE Taranis. Furthermore, the UK and France have agreed to build two full-scale technology demonstrators for an unmanned combat aircraft by 2025. Still, the British Defense Ministry has said the FCAS effort could result in a manned aircraft.
Japan’s fighter technologists want a big jet. Their designs emphasize range, endurance and weapon bay volume over maneuverability, relying on a big load of large, high-performance missiles for standoff engagement. The concept is somewhat similar to that of the RAF’s now-retired Tornado F3.
The Future Fighter, to be called the F-3 when in service, would be built by MHI, the national fighter specialist. Japan wants to decide in its fiscal year ending March 2019 whether to go ahead with an indigenous project. It is not at all clear that the UK would want to commit by then, even if full-scale development did not need to begin until a few years later for entry into service in the mid-2030s.
Stealth technology would be a focus of the Anglo-Japanese study, says Nippon News Network television. Gaining know-how in that aspect of fighter design is likely to be high among several priorities for Japanese fighter engineers, who have been working on the technological underpinning for the Future Fighter but have most recently developed a fighter, the F-2, only with considerable help from Lockheed Martin. Some British stealth technology has been developed in cooperation with the U.S. and cannot be shared with other countries. But the rest has been acquired independently and can be supplied to Japan, to the extent that London is willing to share. Indeed, Tokyo may find that London is a little more generous in this area than Washington.
IHI Corp. is building a demonstrator for an advanced, 33,000-lb.-thrust engine for the Future Fighter. Home to global propulsion giant Rolls-Royce, the UK would not use a Japanese engine, so a jointly developed powerplant would be needed. It may not be too hard for the Japanese to walk away from their design, however; they could offer their newly developed technology for a joint engine. Moreover, Japan’s air force, probably wondering whether IHI has enough experience for the project, might be more than satisfied with the idea of Rolls-Royce’s involvement.
From the British point of view, the exploratory discussions may open a path for BAE Systems to sustain and extend its skills in combat-aircraft engineering—even if no joint fighter results—by acting as a technology partner. That is just the sort of work the company has been looking for, because it has no immediate UK program for a fighter beyond the Typhoon.
BAE is still building Typhoons in cooperation with Airbus and Leonardo and, following development work, has moved to a largely manufacturing role in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program. Having built and tested the Taranis, its engineers have the Anglo-French technology-demonstrator project to work on, with no guarantee that it will turn into a full development and production program. But under a £123 million ($150 million) heads-of-agreement deal signed between the Turkish and British governments in January, BAE will assist Turkey in developing the TF-X fighter. That nation will use BAE’s expertise and facilities, including for simulation and testing of radar cross-section—while incidentally helping to keep BAE in the game.
Cooperation with the Japanese could turn into something similar and would probably run a few years behind Turkey’s program, conveniently spreading out the load on BAE’s key engineers. The UK would have the option to eventually join either the Turkish or Japanese programs as a development and production partner. But Japan may want Britain’s money as well. Those two countries and France have similar-size defense budgets. Japan should need a partner as much as the other two, for developing a first-rank fighter. Indeed, the exploratory talks threaten to unseat France as the UK’s prospective partner.
In another sign of London and Tokyo moving closer in military affairs, the British Defense Ministry said on March 15 that it and its Japanese counterpart had agreed to supply each other with material and services when deploying their forces. A flight of RAF Typhoons visited Japan in November, giving the Japanese air force its first opportunity to exercise at home with a country other than the U.S. It was the first British fighter deployment to Japan in decades.