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Italy Air Force chief heads to Japan to talk next-gen fighter jets

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ROME — The head of the Italian Air Force will travel to Japan next month to hold talks with his Japanese counterpart about collaboration on sixth-generation fighter technology.

General Luca Goretti said the visit would be a chance to explore what ambitions Rome and Tokyo share for next-generation fighters and what technologies can and cannot be shared by the nations.

“In October I have been invited to Japan by the head of the Japanese air force to discuss common programs — it will be the opportunity to share our vision and common point of view,” said Goretti in an interview with Defense News.

Italy partners with the U.K. on the Tempest fighter program while Japan is pursuing its F-X program to build a replacement for the Mitsubishi F-2.

At this summer’s Farnborough Airshow, the U.K. said it would undertake “joint concept analysis” with Japan and Italy on sixth-generation technology following the announcement of a flurry of deals between U.K. and Japanese firms on engines and sensors to get the ball rolling.

“The Japanese could take technology from Tempest to insert in their F-X program. We will understand better when we realize what industry can do,” said Goretti.

He also suggested Japan might get on board with Tempest, stating, “If a partner like Japan enters a program it could be an opportunity to better understand each other’s reality.”

Any cooperation would need to take into account Japan’s area of operations and how best to exchange technology, he said.

“Our operational sphere is centered on the Mediterranean and on our alliances, which are NATO and Europe. That is our main focus,” he said.

Using the acronym FCAS to describe the Tempest program, he added, “The FCAS development phases will be conducted in order to avoid infringement on security of the NATO alliance because exchange of technologies will be performed strictly respecting every security aspect.”

He added, “NATO and Japan have different strategic areas of interest and experts are working on the operational concept and how to safely exchange information.”

Italy committed to spending €220 million ($218 million) this year on Tempest work and forecasts spending €3.8 billion ($3.77 billion) by 2036.

Meanwhile work by France, Spain and Germany on a separate sixth-generation program has been caught up in workshare rows between lead contractors Dassault and Airbus Defence and Space.

Goretti predicted Tempest and the Franco-German project could yet merge.

“These programs need a huge investment single nations cannot afford, so nations are trying to reduce costs. It happened with Tornado, and with Eurofighter and will happen again,” he said.

“The French and Germans have gone one way, but we cannot have two platforms doing the same thing in Europe. It may not be economically sustainable. It is logical to say it is very probable that when the nations have defined their requirements, we will see a convergence into a single platform,” he said.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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