Britain will collaborate on the development of next-generation fighter jets with Italy and Japan, Rishi Sunak has announced.
The prime minister said the defense partnership would ensure the UK and allies “outrun and outmaneuver those who seek to do us harm”.
Downing Street aims to have the jets, called Tempest in the UK, flying by 2035 to serve as a successor to the RAF’s Typhoon.
The ambition is for aircraft developed under the Global Combat Aviation Program (GCAP) to be enhanced with capabilities including unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced sensors and advanced weapons.
They are being developed in response to concerns among military chiefs that air dominance is under threat.
Mr Sunak will launch the first major phase of the program during a visit to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Friday.
Ahead of the visit, he said: “The security of the UK, both today and for future generations, will always be paramount for this government.
“That’s why we must stay on the cutting edge of advances in defense technology – to outrun and outmaneuver those who seek to harm us.
“The international partnership we announced today with Italy and Japan aims to do just that, emphasizing that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions is indivisible.
“The next generation of fighter jets we are designing will protect us and our allies around the world by harnessing the power of our global defense industry – creating jobs while saving lives.”
The jet is expected to be able to fly faster than the speed of sound and in the future will have the ability to fire hypersonic weapons.
It is hoped that working with allies will share costs and ensure that the RAF can easily work with its closest partners, with the new Tempests being compatible with other NATO partners’ jets.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This international partnership with Italy and Japan to create and design a new generation of fighter jets represents the best collaboration of cutting-edge defense technology and expertise shared across our nations, delivering highly skilled jobs across the sector and long-term security for Britain and our allies.”
The partnership brings together future UK and Italian Combat Air System (FCAS) projects with Japan’s F-X programme.
Ministers hope that other countries can buy into the GCAP in due course.
John Healey, Labour’s shadow defense secretary, said his party supported the partnership.
“Ministers need to make clear how this fits into wider plans for the future of the RAF, including how to avoid delays in jet pilot training and how many F-35 fighters they plan to buy,” he said.