Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom are joining an ambitious project: the Global Combat Air Program (GACP), which seeks to develop sixth-generation stealth fighters to complement their F-35 fleets and strengthen NATO.
The sixth generation stealth fighter and NATO
The three countries see this collaboration as an opportunity to improve their military air capabilities and contribute to the support of NATO. In addition, they seek to deter China and prepare for possible air confrontations in the event of a conflict.
In order to achieve effective cooperation between the sixth-generation fighters and the F-35, it will be necessary to establish secure and efficient connections between both platforms and the fourth-generation ones.
Japan intends to have sixth-generation stealth fighters to complement its F-35s, purchased to replace aging F-4s and deal with China’s regular aerial provocations near its coasts.
International collaboration and a joint statement
After announcing the GACP, Japan and the Pentagon issued a joint statement in which the United States expressed its support for security and defense cooperation between Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
These three countries also issued a joint statement, emphasizing interoperability between their forces and the need for collaboration with the United States, NATO, and other international partners.
The project seeks to take advantage of the successful Multi-function Advanced Data Link technology of the F-35, which allows connection between fighters from different countries, and adapt it for the sixth generation.
Technological innovations and drones
The new stealth fighter could have the ability to control drones from the cockpit, just like the sixth-generation project from the United States. Both projects are described as “families of systems,” seeking greater integration between manned and unmanned platforms.
The United States is already developing Collaborative Combat Aircraft, which includes collaboration between sixth-generation manned fighters and drones.
Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom seek to position themselves in this new air combat paradigm, in which the platforms will act as “nodes” in a combat network to share information and operate offensively.
Japan’s Role in the Alliance
With expertise in radio technology, electronic warfare, and connectivity, Japan is a valued partner in developing avionics for this project. In addition, the sixth-generation stealth fighters would improve Japan’s military position in the Pacific, should offensive operations become necessary.
The alliance with the United States and the growing threat in the region could influence Japan’s defensive posture, established by its constitution. Although Japan is not likely to carry out offensive strikes, these advanced fighters would be useful for deterrent and defensive purposes.
Implications and final thoughts
The collaboration between Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom on the development of sixth-generation stealth fighters is a significant step in the evolution of air defense strategy.
Interoperability and technological innovation will be essential to face current and future threats.
In addition, the project raises questions about the balance between defense and deterrence and whether security policies need to be adapted as the geopolitical landscape evolves.