UK and Japan to jointly develop fighter jet engine

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The UK and Japan are to partner on building a jet engine demonstrator for use in next generation fighter aircraft, with work starting in the coming months.

The agreement, which was signed at the end of last month also commits the countries to exploring other combat air technologies together.

As part of the project the UK Government is investing an initial £30 million (US$41 million) in planning, design and manufacturing developments. This will be followed by a further £200 million (US$271 million) to build a full-scale demonstrator power system at Rolls-Royce’s Filton facility in Bristol.

The engine would be used by the Tempest fighter, which is being developed by a UK-led industrial consortium that Italy and Sweden are also part of. The Tempest is planned to be operational by 2035.

Tempest is part of the UK’s future combat air system (FCAS). The UK Government has allocated a total of £2 billion (US$2.7 billion) to be spent on FCAS over the next four years, which also covers the development of uncrewed aircraft, sensors, weapons and advanced data systems for air defense.

Japan’s F-X program similarly aims to develop a future fighter aircraft by 2035 to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 aircraft, a national variant of the F-16.

The work on the engine demonstrator will be led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI in Japan, and Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems in the UK.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “Designing a brand-new combat air system with a fighter aircraft at its heart is a highly ambitious project so working with like-minded nations is vital. Building on the technological and industrial strengths of our two countries, we will be exploring a wide-ranging partnership across next-generation combat air technologies.”

The two countries will also explore the feasibility of further collaboration on sub-systems throughout 2022. In the UK this work will be undertaken by the Tempest industry partners: BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce.

Alex Zino, director of business development and future programmes at Rolls-Royce, said, “We have a longstanding and valued relationship with our customers and industry partners in Japan. The industry teams in both UK and Japan bring complementary technologies that will drive cleaner, next generation power and propulsion for both nations future fighter requirements.

The UK MOD is also supporting Japan in the delivery of their Joint New Air-to-Air Missile program.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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