Why is the future Anglo-Japanese fighter gonna be bigger than F-22?

Why is the future Anglo-Japanese fighter gonna be bigger than F-22?

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Global combat air program is the not so  catchy name for the anglo-japanese future   generation jet fighter, to come online  in mid 2030s. While the name is new,   its legacy stems from long winding development  efforts made by its participants. Japan, for its   F-X effort. And the UK for its team tempest  effort. There’s also Italy in the mix, as an  

allegedly equal but in reality a smaller partner. This video will talk about geopolitics and   internal politics of this suddenly created  project. What sort of plane numbers might we   see? Where and how might the planes operate?  And what sort of a plane will the G-CAP be?   For over a decade, both the UK and Japan have been  looking into what fighter jet might come next,   to replace their current planes, come mid 2030s. Late last year, it became official. The British   project, where Italy was also a partner,  would merge with Japan’s project.  

Previously, there were some indications Sweden was  also interested to be part of the tempest team,   but in June 2023, Swedish military officials  said, quote, Sweden sees no immediate need   to join any future fighter program. So  for now, Sweden is out of the picture.   But why did the merger happen? In a December  2022 press brief, a defense official in charge of   Japan's program said the timelines for Japan's F-X  and British tempest aligned with each other - as   service entry for both was expected by 2035. The official further stated that the 3 nations,   Italy included, share similar tactical  requirements. And that Japan and the UK  

desire a large, multi role stealth  plane, with long cruising range,   twin engines and a large missile load. GCAP will provide a better fighter at a   lower cost, in a more efficient way, as  costs and technology will be shared. The   official added the fighter will exceed the  performance of F-35 and the Eurofighter;   especially in terms of sensors and networking. Years before the GCAP, Japan was seeking a foreign  

partner for de-risking and affordability reasons.  And US firms like Lockheed Martin and Northrop   Grumman were in the running. But the Japanese  ATLA agency official said the US and LM refused to   share certain technologies and information. Such  as software source code. It’s important for Japan   to have access to the source code, so localized  upgrades can be added. The official added that was   a bitter lesson Japan learned, which had affected  upgrading its F-2 and F-15 jets in the past.  

In contrast to that, the official said the  UK offered to cooperate in research and   design of engine and radar. Both of those had  restrictions for Japan, back when it developed   the F-2 with the US. Ultimately, Japan  expects to be an equal partner to Britain,   unlike it was with the US in the past. Exports were cited as the final reason. US   derived plane would hardly see much export profit  for japan, as the US would be the exporting party.   But the current GCAP plans call for the UK and  Italy to offer the plane to European markets.   While Japan hopes to export it to Asian markets.  Japan’s government has already announced plans to  

ease restrictions on export of military items.  Binkov would like to add that the middle east,   while not mentioned, is also a likely  pool of countries for the UK. As many   gulf countries bought UK aircraft in the past. But before we get into the timetables and the   business end - what sort of a fighter jet  will GCAP be? Answer to that is hard as   the plane’s design is simply not finalized  yet. And when the design freeze does happen,   it's likely we will see and hear little  about the plane, due to secrecy reasons.   What we may see first is the technology  demonstrator plane. British BAE is making it,  

and the decision to fly a demonstrator as part  of british tempest program, preceding the GCAP,   was made before GCAP happened. So the demo  plane plans remain, as it’s useful to de-risk   development. What’s known is that the demo plane  will not be designed to be fully stealthy. As   that’s not the goal for the demo plane. According  to herman claesen, a bae systems director,   testing the weapon bays will be crucial for  the demo plane. Those are difficult to design  

digitally as stealth characteristics need to be  maintained during various moments in flight.   Mr Cleasen also said actual GCAP design  may look very different to the upcoming   flying demonstrator. What we know is that the demo  plane will use two E-J 200 engines. Likely uprated   versions of eurofighter engines. There were images  shown of demo plane engine ducts, being 33 feet   long. For example, F-22’s ducts are some 21 feet  long. Though, chinese j-20 engine ducts are very   similar in length to the BAE demo plane ones. It’s very likely the final gCAP design will be   a large and fairly heavy plane. Easily  outgunning F-22 in length and possibly  

wingspan. Possibly even matching it in weight. We know eurofighter’s engines are not going to   power the GCAP. While fine for the demo plane,  they’re lacking in thrust for the final design.   The existing Rolls royce engine design simply  can’t be scaled up enough. Which is why rolls   royce engines are contributing their knowledge to  aid the japanese IHI in making the final engine.   Said corporation has been working on the XF9  engine demonstrator for some time. Which uses  

quite a bit larger core, more easily adapted  to GCAP’s final thrust needs. Rolls Royce is   contributing, among other things, with variable  cycle technology. Though the final decision on   using such advanced tech on the end-product  has allegedly not been made yet. Variable   cycle engines would allow the plane to be both  fuel efficient when slow and to produce a lot   of thrust supersonically. That’s something  today’s turbofan engines struggle with.   So far the XF9 dash 1 proved it can deliver 15  tons of thrust with an afterburner. Plans called  

for another variant to reach 17 tonnes in 2023  testing. Turbine inlet temperature is allegedly   at 18 hundred celsius, which is approaching the  levels of modern US engines. That’s over F-22’s   alleged inlet temperature, though the F-35s  engine is still ahead at nearly 2000 celsius.  

Ideally, by 2030, IHI hopes to reach 20 tonnes  of thrust. That was before Rolls royce joined   the team, which happened in december 2021, a  year before the official GCAP announcement.   Those figures, if achieved, would put  it somewhat higher than the current   F-35s engine. Which is impressive, knowing that  the goal is keep the engine somewhat compact.   Perhaps just as impressive is that the demo  engine has a powerful electricity generator,   which can output 180 kilowats of electricity.  F35s engine can output 160 kilowats. So a twin  

engine GCAP might be able to output an  impressive 360 kilowatts of electrictiy,   with two engines. Knowing that the plane  is to use a lot of sensors and perhaps   even direct energy weapons - big electricity  generation requirements aren’t that strange.   Among other details, a powerful new radar set was  announced. Wide area radar technology was jointly  

worked on by uk and japan since 2021. Apparently,  many individual radar faces may be used around the   plane. Which would be able to form simultaneous  radar beams covering a wide area. While the   current aesa radars can scan the skies quickly,  they still do it sequentially, with one beam.   Before the merger, japan did test a  prototype gallium nitride radar array,   which is a newer aesa technology, claiming a 50%  range increase compared to other 5th generation   fighter radars. That may be a reference to F-35s  radar. Former director or air systems development,   takayoshi yamazaki, also said the japanese predecessor to GCAP   was to have awacs like radar capabilities. So  distributed radar of ample range and robust  

networking is to be expected. He also said it  would be able to track ballistic missiles.   Given that there is over a decade more to go,  improvements in radar and radar detection sensors   are a given. Who knows what we may actually see on  the plane. It’s entirely plausible that dedicated   awacs like planes will become a thing of the past  within a few decades. With every fighter having   similar capabilities, and control and command  being done off site, through secure comms.   The british were touting, at one  point for their tempest program,   sensors in pilots suit and helmet, to monitor  medical and brain data. AI monitoring would  

then amass biometric data and the AI would assist  the pilot as needed. The AI was also envisioned   to prevent the pilot from being overwhelmed  by intelligence data presented to them.   BEA had at one point said 30% of tempest plane  would be made using 3d printing. And Japan has   been working on replacing fasteners with glue.  A full scale mid fuselage part wast tested where  

composite skin was glued to composite frames.  Structural beams were also joined to each other   by modern, durable glue solutions. Japan’s ATLA  agency estimated the structure weighed 10 percent   less than if it had been joined with fasteners.  Manufacturing such parts is also quicker,   with no need for so many holes for fasteners. Japan’s F-X design, prior to GCAP, went through  

many iterations. Some were closer to the  british tempest models than others. The   models and graphics shown to the public  as a preliminary aristis’s vision of the   GCAP, however, show a design closer to tempest  than to any of the japanese designs. However,   it’s crucial to stress that the final design  of the plane has not been frozen. So the plane   might end up looking differently, when we  see it. Possibly by the end of this decade.  

As is usual with 6th generation fighters, loyal  wingmen are likely and are being considered.   Prior to GCAP, japan planned to have individually  controlled unmanned aircraft as near term measure.   In the future, by 2035, one manned plane  would control several drones. Completely  

autonomous squadrons are envisioned for a more  distant future. As GCAP was formed, japan said   they agreed with the US secretary of defense  to explore collaboration on UAV teaming with   the Japanese planes. Which kind of sounds like  that part of the overall pie may go to the US,   and will not be worked on with Britain.  Indeed, Britain had the project mosquito,   an unmanned loyal wingman demonstrator project,  often presented alongside project tempest manned   fighters. It was formed in 2015 and was supposed  to fly this year but the program was suddenly  

stopped mid 2022, just as first media leaks  about GCAP being on the horizon appeared.   It’s not impossible that both uk and japan will in  the end use US made loyal drones. But we’ll see.   Missile count is another area where the  Japanese have made it clear the new plane   is to be large. One official said it would carry  more missiles internally than the F-35. Which,   depending on which variant of F-35 we’re  talking about, may be 6 or 8 missiles.   But it may be even more. Because that same  mr takayoshi yamazaki we mentioned earlier   said F-X is to be larger than F-22 and carry  more missiles than it. Meaning more than 8.  

He also said the carriage of ASM-3 antiship  missile is planned. context wasn’t given but   said missile can easily fit on even smaller  planes when carried externally. Internally,   though, it’d be impressive if GCAP would carry it.  We’re taking about a 6 meter long missile. Binkov   is skeptical on internal carriage, though we’ll  see, if the missile load is indeed that important.   ASM-3 is carried by the current F-2 jets, which  the GCAP will replace in japan. Essentially,  

antiship missions are mostly defensive for  japan, and in such strikes over the open seas,   the long range of the missile doesn’t  really require stealthy carriage.   Stealth itself is, of course, incredibly  important for a modern fighter jet,   but there has been no word on that. So one can  only guess that Japan and especially Britain   will do their best to keep the GCAP competitively  stealthy in the 2030s environemnt. Japan has had   fairly little experience with stealth planes. Its  ATD-X demonstrator plane was a step in trying to  

implement their stealth knowledge onto an physical  plane. A Japan’s defense ministry procurement   agency official had stated the demo plane had a  radar cross section comparable to one of a giant   beetle. Though that’s hard to quantify. The British have had, on the other hand,   more experience with radar stealth. BAE codesigned  and made certain parts of the F-35. Prior to that,   BAE had many projects that aimed to lower  detectability of planes. Which culminated   in the stealth demonstrator airframe  called replica. While it did not fly,   it was made to fully model actual stealth  levels of a real plane design. The initial  

testing was done up to the year 1999, but even  as late as 2014 further testing of new materials   on the airframe was still being performed. Finally, BAE systems made and flew the taranis.   Unmanned stealthy flying wing demonstrator  aircraft. So, it’s plausible the British are   going into the GCAP with some robust knowledge  of lowering the radar cross section of a plane.   How comparable that may be to F-35 and let  alone to future US fighters is unknown. But  

it seems unlikely GCAP stealth levels will be  lacking in the pacific region, when compared   to those of its potential opponents. At one point, it seemed as if GCAP would   come with a new missile developed  jointly by Japan and the UK.   It was called JNAAM, or joint new air to  air missile. It was to use improved meteor’s  

engine technology, as well as improved seeker  from the japanese aam-4b. But in july 2023,   the project was terminated. The missile will get  tested, but will not get procured nor integrated   to future fighters. Still, its tests will likely  enable future missile development. So it’s still   possible some other joint missile will profit from  it. Or both Japan and the UK will simply switch to   the US AIM-260. which is to enter service within  a year and eventually replace the amraam missile.   To get back to the industrial base discussion of  the program, work sharing decisions are supposed   to be finalized in 2024, and production of GCAP  airframes is aggressively planned for 2030. With  

2035 being the expected in service date for first  operational units. That compares very well to the   timetable of Japan's F-x program, before it was  merged into GCAP. Given the British demo plane   flying in 2027, flight testing of the actual  final design prototype airframe should happen   around 2030. Compared to previous F-X timetable  shown, It’s likely serial standard manufacture  

may happen a few years later. 2035 may end  up being the date of first serial standard   airframes handed over to users. With the  initial operational capability milestone   for a first whole unit coming a few years later. Initial production plan, disclosed in December  

2022, mentioned 300 GCAP fighter jets  bought by Japan, UK and Italy combined.   Japanese officials had at one point stated Japan  aims to buy 94 F-X aircraft. Which is the number   of their old F-2 fighters they originally  ordered, when prototypes are subtracted.   Italy has little over 90 typhoons in service,  which it plans to replace. While RAF currently   operates 137 typhoons. Though the earliest  tranche 1 typhoons are to be retired by 2025,   leaving little under 110 typhoons to  be replaced. So the overall total of  

just under 300 airframes does check out. That being said, no one really knows how the   finances and geopolitics will play out by the  2030s and 2040s. Maybe Italy or UK will order   fewer or more planes than currently envisioned.  Both seem to be struggling financially so fewer   might be slightly more plausible. But Japan  has recently made a big switch in financing   their armed forces, hiking up their budget. We  made a video on both UK and Japanese military   finances so feel free to check those  out. Links should be below the video.  

What’s looking likely, though, is that Japan will  need more GCAP planes in the long run. Its ongoing   F-35 purchases will cover F-4 and part of F-15  replacements. With some 100 F-15 remaining to   be replaced sometime after the 2030s and possibly  even in the 2040s. So another Japanese GCAP order   of another 100 airframes does seem possible,  getting the totals to 400 airframes. Before   any exports are considered. BAE systems said  at one point they expect there’s a market for  

several hundred GCAP planes to be exported. One customer might be Australia. Which recently   said it will extend airframe life of their  superhornets so those last well into the   2030s. And added that several more options for  their replacement will exist then, besides F-35.   Specifically targeting NGAD and GCAP planes. Binkov’s money is actually on US Air force’s NGAD   for Australia, but that’s a very long term bet.  GCAP would certainly be the second most suitable   option. When geography, geopolitics and future  interoperability are included into the equation.   Then there are various other, smaller countries  around the world that are given to buy the   plane eventually. Ultimately, production numbers  similar to the eurofighter may not be unrealistic,  

come the later half of the century. But, export is just a small reason behind   all GCAP. Both Japan and the UK want to remain  competitive in the combat aircraft segment. Both   want their aerospace industries to remain in  game and not have them atrophy. And both are   really unable to finance a proper 6th generation  fighter on their own. Hence the partnership.  

But there’s another reason why Japan  and the UK are a perfect match. So   much so that the US government has issued a  statement right alongside the December 2022   GCAP announcement by Japan and UK. Despite the US trying to get Japan   to cooperate industrially with US companies,  and failing, the US ultimately announced that   it supports Japan's cooperation with the UK and  Italy on the new fighter. That US and Japan are   discussing collaboration on autonomous systems,  to complement Japanese fighters. And that such   collaboration strengthen’s US and Japan's  alliance and further cooperation with other   like minded partners. Enabling joint responses  to future threats in the indo pacific region.   The Indo pacific region is key there. Japan’s,  Italy’s and British statement on GCAP,  

released around the same time - said this: That participating countries are committed to   upholding the rules based, free  and open international order,   which is more important than ever at a time when  these principles are contested. The indo pacific   mentioned earlier and the rules based world  order are political formulations that have   increasingly been used by the US and UK when  talking about challenges coming from China.   So, China may, indeed, be a big reason why GCAP  is happening. Japan is getting increasingly  

uneasy around the ever more capable Chinese  military,which is based less than 500 miles   away. While the UK is on the other side of the  world, its governments have used language that   more or less puts the UK on the same line  as the US, and against China. After all,   the AUKUS security pact is tying US, UK and  Australian militaries together. Increasing   the likelihood that if the US gets involved in a  war with China, the other two will as well. While   Japan is not in AUKUS yet, binkov’s assessment is  that addition will happen in the coming years.   So, in a potential shooting war or even  just a cold war arms race with china,   the US wants its allies to be strong and to  have their own defense industries. Japan and  

UK sharing the GCAP means UK’s planes could easily  get integrated into the overall command on Japan's   islands. Adding another 100 6th gen fighters to  Japan's 100 or 200 jets. Logistics of that would   make more sense than if the UK had a different  fighter. The same enemy, being fought against   from the same bases, also means one design is  more cost efficient than two different designs.   As the requirements would be nearly identical. Given that GCAP is likely to be a big plane,  

and its range is already touted as long, it may  make sense that those will be stationed in the   middle of Japan. And not on kyushu island, as  part of the current f-2 fleet is. Such basing   would protect them more from potential chinese  attacks. While an ample 1000 mile range would   still make them useful against China. F-X program  requirements called for an air superiority fighter   first and foremost. The British typhoon, to  be replaced, is also an air superiority plane.  

So it’s plausible GCAP will focus on that, air  superiority. Especially if some of Japan's F-15s   will get replaced by GCAP, it’s likely lots of  its units will have trained for air combat, with   a lesser focus on ground strikes. While all modern  planes are also multirole, it’s not inconceivable   that in a war scenario, Japan's and British  planes would be tasked with defensive missions,   protecting the facilities in Japan. While the US  aircraft augment them and on top of that do the   even tougher job of penetrating Chinese defenses. Anyway, similar interoperability may be expected   when using F-35Bs, both British and Japanese  ones. As Japan has started to convert their Izumo  

ships into, defacto, aircraft carriers. Compared to US marines’ F-35B numbers,   both Japan’s and UK’s figures are  small, but still, amassing as many   similar planes is likely seen as beneficial. What sort of project share deal between the 3   countries will be reached likely depends much  on funding. Though info on that is scarce,  

and what info there is, really pertains  to previous programs, predating the GCAP.   In 2021, Japan envisioned their share of  development cost for the F-X program to   significantly exceed one trillion yen. That was  over 9 billion US dollars back then. Mind you,   even then the plan was to find international  partners to pitch in the Japanese FX program.   The UK budget share projection for their  team tempest fighter, from a few years ago,   was 9 and half billion pounds. Or some 12 to 13  billion US dollars. Of course, planned budgets  

almost always get bigger, so there was a 13  billion pound funding cap in place for the first 4   years of development. Which shows the UK was aware  that actual spending would likely be significantly   higher. Again, the team tempest project was  looking for financiers, so said money was always   just part of the total needed development budget. Italy’s officials had at one point said they  

expect to spend 3 point 8 billion US dollars on  the new plane by 2036. Said money likely included   procurement of a few initial airframes  though, and not just pure development.   If the 3 mentioned sums of money would  simply be added up, the combined figure   would amount to roughly 25 billion US  dollars. Which… may seem like a lot.   But for jet fighter development; especially  for 6th generation jets, it’s really not.   For example, Britain's share of the  Eurofighter typhoon development cost   was little under 7 billion pounds in 2011.  With today’s money’s value, that’d be some  

13.5 billion us dollars. And Britain allegedly  contributed some 37 percent of total development   money. So eurofighter development, in today’s  money, would be like 36 billion dollars.   But Gcap is to be cutting edge tech, more so  for its time than typhoon was for its time.   So perhaps another comparison is in order, the  US f-22, which was indeed the very cutting edge   project for its time. It’s development costs  stopped at 32 billion dollars in 2011. Today,   that would amount to 44 billion dollars. What that suggests is that GCAP development,  

once all the inevitable unplanned increases get  added over the years, may get somewhere between   those two figures. Or around 40 billion dollars.  How affordable will the plane be in the end,   is anyone’s guess. But given the geopolitics  of the new cold war - it’s still plausible   that both the UK and especially Japan will  somehow find the money for the project.   Trying to project per airframe procurement costs  at this point is next to impossible, but one can   use a very rough eurofighter cost comparison.  Which cost the UK 27 billion US dollars in  

today's money, for 160 delivered eurofighters  over the years. Applying the same rate to GCAP   would mean some 170 million per plane, to procure.  Though with a smaller production run, and with a   more complex plane, actual procurement cost may  approach 200 million dollars per plane. Mind you,   these are averages, which include setting up  production. Cost per plane usually falls quite  

a bit over the course of production. It may very  well be that the last GCAPs produced for the UK   may be closer to 100 million, in today’s money. The global combat air program seems to be   definitely happening, though. Combined Economic  clout of Japan, UK and Italy is enough to drive  

it through to the finish line. Even without the  prospect of a war in the pacific that’d likely be   true. But with it, it’s only a question of what  sort of plane we will see once it’s designed and   ready. Whether that will indeed be by 2035,  or will the schedule inevitably slip by a few   years - that’s less of an issue. The planes  will surely use better names in the services   of their countries, as the GCAP is just a name  for the overall industrial program. So we may   yet see a tempest. And depending on the pace of  US and Chinese next generation fighter programs,  

GCAP may be the second, or in the worst case,  4th future 6th generation fighter when it   finally enters service. Not that marketing  fueled fighter generations mean much.

2023-08-28 04:02

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