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Japan Britain and Italy forge tri-nation partnership for next-generation air-to-air missile.

| 2023

Japan has initiated a joint project with NATO members Britain and Italy to develop a new generation of air-to-air missile for upcoming fighter jets. This collaboration is set against the backdrop of increasing global security issues, such as Russia's activities in Ukraine and China's military expansion.

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Japan Britain and Italy forge tri nation partnership for Next Generation Air to Air Missile 925 001  The next-generation missile inspired by the Meteor and attended by Japan, is currently in the design phase and aims to incorporate advanced radar and other systems. (Picture source: Wikimedia )

The primary objective of this tri-nation collaboration is to engineer a new air-to-air missile. Initial studies by Japan and Britain suggest that the missile in development could offer enhanced performance at a potentially lower cost compared to the existing Meteor missile. The Meteor program itself is a significant European defense collaboration involving six countries, including Britain and Italy. Unlike conventional air-to-air missiles, the Meteor utilizes a ramjet to maintain thrust at speeds exceeding Mach 4, thereby increasing its range and effectiveness. It is currently compatible with Europe's frontline fighter aircraft such as the Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon II, and the Rafale.

The new missile inspired by the Meteor and expected by Japan, is currently in the design phase and aims to incorporate advanced radar and other systems. It is expected to be capable of receiving targeting information from multiple platforms, including drones and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Key features under consideration include advanced radar systems for improved target detection, seamless integration with other military assets like drones, and the utilization of gallium nitride semiconductors to enhance radar performance. Additionally, a new engine is under development to increase the missile's range and speed. The missile is also anticipated to be compatible with Japan's future 6th-generation fighter jets, although specific technical details are yet to be finalized.

This missile development is part of a broader defense strategy that also includes the creation of a 6th-generation aircraft. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the primary developer of this new aircraft, unofficially known as the F-X or F-3. BAE Systems is actively participating in this project, which aims to replace Japan's aging fleet of Mitsubishi F-2 jets by the mid-2030s.

Japan Britain and Italy forge tri nation partnership for Next Generation Air to Air Missile 925 002

Artist rendering of Japan's planned 6th-generation fighter. (Picture source: Japan's Ministry of Defense)

Initially, Japan and Britain had laid out plans to jointly develop next-generation fighter jets with stealth capabilities and drone coordination technology. Italy later joined the effort, making it a tri-nation initiative. Lockheed Martin Corp. from the United States was initially considered for technical support but was ultimately not chosen due to confidentiality concerns related to defense and security information.

With the initiation of this next-generation air-to-air missile project, the collaboration between Japan, Britain, and Italy appears to be oriented toward long-term engagement. This tri-nation partnership extends beyond a single project and could potentially encompass future technological developments in defense. The alliance reflects a mutual interest among the three countries in addressing global security concerns through cooperative efforts. As such, the collaboration is expected to continue, given the shared objectives in the evolving landscape of international security

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