Britain and Japan to Jointly Develop Engines for F-3 Sixth Generation Fighter | Sixth Generation Fighter

Japan is one of several countries confirmed to be developing a sixth-generation fighter aircraft, alongside leading contenders in the field including China, the United States, and Russia. 

Despite initial expectations that the aircraft would depend heavily on foreign technologies from either Britain or the United States, it was confirmed in 2020 that Japan would develop the fighter independently and seek to minimize reliance on other countries. 

Both of Japan’s previous combat jet programs, including the F-1 attack jet and F-2 lightweight fighter, were based heavily on foreign aircraft designs - namely the European Jaguar and the American F-16 although in both cases the Japanese derivatives were considered significant improvements. 

The upcoming F-3 sixth-generation fighter will replace the F-2 and much of Japan’s license-built fleet of heavyweight F-15 fighters in service in the early-mid 2030s, and is being developed to bridge the performance gap with neighboring China and Russia - the former which fields the world’s only full-strength squadrons of non-American fifth-generation fighters, and the latter which is developing at least two sixth-generation combat jets.

Japanese F-2 Fighter

To develop engines for the sixth-generation fighter, Japan’s IHI Corporation will reportedly partner with Britain’s Rolls-Royce, with the final design developed potentially also influencing Britain’s own sixth-generation fighter program the Tempest. 

Japan’s Ashai Shinmun reported regarding the development: “Anonymous Japanese officials told the news outlet that Japanese Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga spoke on the issue with British Prime Minister Johnson during the G7 summit last month. At the end of June, officials from Japan’s Defense Ministry traveled to Britain for talks on the issue. Britain’s Rolls Royce is currently involved in the Tempest program as well….

According to several Japanese government officials, an exchange on joint engine development was held at a meeting between Prime Ministers Yoshihide Suga and Johnson at the G7 Summit held in the United Kingdom in June.” Japan has notably flown a testbed for next-generation fighter technologies, the Shinshin X2, although even working with Britain the country may struggle to develop an engine on par with that expected to be used by America’s sixth generation fighter. 

Even developing an engine with comparable performance to the American F135, which powers the fifth-generation F-35 fighter, would be a major achievement considering how far ahead the U.S. is in the field and the considerable discrepancy in spending on research and development.

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