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Italy still in the game of joint fighter jet project

Italy has pledged to finance its part of the Italian-Anglo-Japanese fighter jet program for 15 years, long enough to put the aircraft into service, said the project director at the Italian Ministry of Defence on Wednesday.

The next-generation combat aircraft project, known as GCAP, is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, but the three partners have not yet determined how the budget or the work will be divided.

The main contractors – British BAE Systems, Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Italian Leonardo – announced on Tuesday that they had agreed on the next steps to deliver the concept phase of the aircraft.

The three contractors and their respective defence ministries appeared together at the London arms fair DSEI to discuss the project, which aims to produce the combat aircraft by 2035.

Luca De Martinis, Director of the Fourth Department at the Italian Ministry of Defence, said there was “full commitment to support the program” from the department and politicians, with a funding line in the defence budget of “15 years in length.”

In March, Reuters quoted two sources and said that Britain and Japan would dominate the project, with Rome paying only a fifth of the total development costs.

The Italian Ministry of Defence at the time said that the assessments of the sources were “speculative,” while the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) said it “does not recognize these comments.”

Richard Berthon, Director of Future Combat Air at the MOD, said on Wednesday that, unlike previous joint projects, the budget for GCAP in the initial phase would not be divided like a cake between the countries.

Instead, there would be flexibility as the industrial capabilities of the partners developed over the course of the program, he said.

Berthon said that several other countries had shown interest in the project, but the primary focus for all three partners was delivering the aircraft within the challenging timeframe.

When asked about Saudi Arabia’s interest, which has a long-standing relationship with Britain in the field of air defense, he said there had been discussions to explore future possibilities but “no decision had been made.”

Brian O'Neil

Brian O'Neil is the founder and chief editor. He was a journalist in the original LS TV before it closed in 2017.

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