Shortly before Christmas, on December 22, the UK and Japanese governments announced that the two countries were to jointly develop a jet engine technology demonstrator, as the precursor to a next generation propulsion system to power their respective future fighter aircraft, currently under development. The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding, allowing them to explore the joint development of other future air combat technologies.
The technology demonstration engine will be jointly developed by the UK’s Rolls-Royce and Japan’s IHI (previously known as Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries), with the involvement of BAE Systems and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The latter two are the lead groups for the development of the two countries’ respective next generation fighter programmes, the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS (UK) and the F-X (Japan). (FCAS is more popularly known as Tempest.)
Neither the Japanese government nor IHI appear to have released press statements in English. The UK press statements unsurprisingly concentrate on the British aspects of the joint project.
Work on the new joint engine project will start early this year (2022). The British government will provide initial funding of £30-million as its contribution to allow the start of planning, digital design and the development of innovations in manufacturing. The UK authorities expect to invest a further £200-million into the development of the full-scale technology demonstrator engine. No figures were given in the English-language press releases regarding the scale of Japanese funding for the project. In all, the UK will spend more than £2-billion, over the next four years, on the complete FCAS or Tempest programme, of which Britain is the lead country but which also involves Italy and Sweden.
“Strengthening our partnerships with the Indo-Pacific is a strategic priority and this commitment with Japan, one of our closest security partners in Asia, is a clear example of that,” stated UK Defence Secretary (Cabinet Minister) Ben Wallace. “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.”
“Across Rolls-Royce we have a longstanding and valued relationship with our customers and industry partners in Japan,” highlighted Rolls-Royce Business Development and Future Programmes director Alex Zino. “The industry teams in both [the] UK and Japan bring complementary technologies that will drive cleaner, next generation power and propulsion for both nations' future fighter requirements. The joint engine demonstrator programme is an exciting opportunity to bring together some of the best combat air capabilities in the world and will also enable the development of innovative and critical technologies that will be fundamental to the future of the defence aerospace industry.”