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Sweden Leaves UK’s 6th-Gen Fighter Jet Program

Sweden Leaves UK’s 6th-Gen Fighter Jet Program

United Kingdom has started its Tempest programme, which Italy and Sweden joined and called FCAS. While Japan was involved and Sweden left, the new programme was called GCAP. The initial reason was the British-Japanese collaboration in December 2021 to develop engines and radar prototypes for their respective Tempest and F-X fighter projects. British publication Jane’s quoted Saab’s President and CEO, Micael Johansson, saying Sweden was in a “hibernation period” on the multinational project in August 2022. 

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Sweden's vision was reportedly not shared by the United Kingdom or Italy, but they remained interested in some aspects of the project. When the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) became the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), Japan effectively replaced Sweden as the third partner. 

It is worth noting, however, that Japan and Sweden signed an agreement on potential future cooperation in late December 2022. This agreement establishes a formal framework for deeper bilateral defence-technology cooperation. The specifics of defence equipment and technology cooperation with Sweden, including next-generation fighter development, will be the subject of future discussions between the two countries.

So, while Sweden is not currently a member of the GCAP, there is the possibility of future collaboration between Sweden and the other GCAP partners.

The most recent statement from a Swedish official at the recently concluded International Fighter Conference 2023 in Madrid confirmed what had long been speculated. According to Aerospace journalist Gareth Jennings’s social media share on November 7: “Sweden confirms that involvement in Tempest is now officially dead. ‘We walked away from tri-lateral studies with the UK and Italy about a year ago and launched a national study. I will not answer questions about why it didn’t work with the UK and FCAS.’ – official.”

France and Germany’s different visions on technology, industry, and interests have stirred up the French-German-Italian FCAS effort. The industrial conflict between Airbus and France's Dassault Aviation over technology and workshare arrangements deepened the split between France and Germany. Paris criticised Berlin's preference for "off the shelf" systems from countries such as the United States and Israel.

This harmed France's efforts to research and develop next-generation air defence systems. On the other hand, the German Chancellery saw France's approach to its defence industry as overly protective, with little role for the German defence industry. Two major partners agreed on industrial sharing and thought the crises were over for now. The Times recently reported that Germany intended to leave the programme in order to join the Tempest project. The real motivation behind this news is questioned, while some believe Germany wants to pressure French defence officials to gain more leverage over the FCAS.