Italy, the UK and Japan, through their national industry leads Leonardo, BAE Systems and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will collaborate in the development of technologies for the sixth generation combat aircraft that will operate within a system of systems concept.
Rishi Sunak, UK’s Prime Minister visited a Royal Air Force (RAF) base Friday to launch the first major phase of the programme.
Due to take to the skies by 2035, the ambition is for this to be a next-generation jet enhanced by a network of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft, advanced sensors, cutting-edge weapons and innovative data systems.
It is anticipated that more likeminded countries may buy into GCAP in due course or collaborate on wider capabilities - boosting UK exports. The combat aircraft developed through GCAP is also expected to be compatible with other NATO partners’ fighter jets, the UK Ministry of Defence reported.
In addition to Leonardo, which has already participated in the programme since 2018 through Leonardo UK, the Italian team will involve Avio Aero, Elettronica and MBDA Italia together with the country’s wider innovation and manufacturing ecosystem.
Leonardo is a strategic partner in the GCAP (Global Combat Air Programme) which aims to create a new-generation system of systems for multi-domain operations, to be operational by 2035. The programme represents a challenge aimed at protecting and strengthening national technological and industrial sovereignty while ensuring prosperity, safeguarding specialist skills, generating employment and improving the competitiveness of the Aerospace, Defense and Security sectors in international markets. The programme will encompass the entire Italian supply chain, including universities, research centres and SME companies as well as the industries involved.
“The decision of the three Governments to strengthen their collaboration in this strategic initiative reflects the effectiveness and promise of the cooperation between the partners,” said Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo.
“This challenging and forward-looking programme for the aerospace and defence industry will guarantee technological autonomy for the countries involved and provide each Armed Forces with unprecedented levels of performance and operational capability. The Global Combat Air Programme will also act as a driving force for the further development of national industry in the decades to come, benefitting future generations. Thanks to our strong presence in the United Kingdom, Leonardo represents two of the partner nations, Italy and the United Kingdom, in the programme,” he added.
Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s General Manager, said: “Thanks to the experience they will mature during the project, our industries be able to consolidate their leadership at European and international levels, as well as ensuring technological autonomy and freedom of modification. The programme will generate long-term technological, economic and social benefits for the three countries and, at the same time, sustainable growth and increased competitiveness for industry, not only in the defence and security sector but across the entire innovation ecosystem.”
Major European and international collaborations are part of Leonardo’s DNA, with the company playing core roles in the sector’s main programmes including, most recently, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-35 and the Eurodrone. (Leonardo; UK Minitry of Defence; Photo © UK MoD)