Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Italy’s investment in the Future Combat Air System. The country plans has committed to spend €6 billion ($6 billion) on the program over the next decade.
FARNBOROUGH, England — Leonardo announced it will partner with BAE Systems on development of a Future Combat Air System demonstrator, which the British Ministry of Defence plans to fly by 2027.
Both companies are already collaborating on FCAS, and BAE has begun work on the demonstrator platform at its facility in Preston, England. Leonardo announced July 19 it will join the effort, providing model-based systems engineering design methodologies and other enabling technologies.
With BAE headquartered in the United Kingdom and Leonardo in Italy, the companies say the arrangement strengthens the relationship between Britain and Italy, who are partnered for FCAS development.
Speaking July 19 at the Farnborough Airshow, U.K. Secretary of Defence Ben Wallace touted Britain’s collaboration with Italy and its new potential partner, Japan.
“We’re serious countries with serious defense budgets and a serious appetite to make sure that we have skin in the game and we are leaders in the next generation of fighters,” Wallace said.
Sweden has also been involved in Tempest and signed a memorandum of understanding with Britain and Italy in 2020. The Swedish Air Force is in the midst of its own study of future fighter capabilities, and it’s unclear what their role will be on the program. Wallace told reporters after his speech that while Sweden has participated in discussions about FCAS requirements, it hasn’t invested in the program.
“Money is important,” he said. “We’ve got to get development up.”
Britain has committed to invest £2 billion ($2.4 billion) in Tempest through 2025 with additional funding to come. The Italian parliament in December approved a €6 billion ($6 billion) investment over the next 10 years.
The U.K. and Japan are also discussing collaboration on FCAS, and the two countries signed a memorandum of cooperation in December. Reuters reported last week that the countries could decide to merge their next-generation fighter programs by the end of the year.
Asked whether the FCAS and Japan’s program, F-X, would merge under such a partnership, Wallace said all options are on the table.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.