LONDON – Britain and Japan have extended their defense-technology partnership, announcing a tie-up Feb. 15 to undertake joint research on a key combat jet sensor.

The two sides have signed a letter of arrangement to jointly conduct research into what the British Ministry of Defence described as universal radio frequency sensor technology, but is also widely known as a multi-function radar antenna.

The advanced radio frequency system antenna is designed to prove capabilities such as locating static or moving targets and denying external surveillance technology.

A contract for the program has yet to be signed.

The project, known as Jaguar, is scheduled to get underway in April and run for about five years, the British MoD said in a statement.

Leonardo U.K. will take the industrial lead in the project from the British side. Its Japanese partners are likely to be named once the contract is signed.

Two technology demonstrators will be built as part of the program, with one going to each nation.

British Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said the tie-up was a key element in retaining a technology edge in combat air.

“This crucial relationship will see us acquire truly advanced technology to protect our nations for decades to come whilst creating significant investment and highly-skilled jobs in the UK and Japan,” he said.

Howard Wheeldon, a consultant at Wheelden Strategic Advisory in London, said the cooperation pact was in line with he British policy of forming international alliances to push forward with sixth-generation combat jet development.

“International partnership is at the heart of British future combat air system development, and having Japan working alongside Leonardo as a partner developing the Jaguar technology makes absolute sense,” he said.

“Jaguar is proposed to be a significant advance on existing detection, target and enemy surveillance denying technology, and the joint experience of Leonardo and Japanese companies in sensor technology has the potential to ensure development of world leading technology,” said Wheeldon.

The partnership is part of a growing research effort between the two sides triggered by the nations signing a memorandum of cooperation in December on joint technology development.

In late December Rolls-Royce and other British companies agreed a deal with Japanese engine builder IHI to cooperate on the design of a sixth-generation combat jet engine demonstrator.

Britain and Japan are both developing new combat jets for service from around 2035.

Japan’s combat jet program, called the F-X, is led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and supported by Lockheed Martin.

The future combat air system program, known as Tempest by the British, has Italy and Sweden as partners.

The new sensor deal with Japan is not technically part of Tempest, although the results are expected to flow into the program.

Since 2014 MBDA’s U.K. arm has been cooperating with Japan in the development of the Asian nation’s Joint New Air-to-air missile (JNAAM).

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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