Correction: A currency conversion from British pounds to U.S. dollars was miscalculated. That value is now updated in the story.

WASHINGTON — The British Defence Ministry has signed a £250 million (U.S. $347 million) deal with Team Tempest, a group of companies working on the country’s future combat jet, to provide digital and physical infrastructure to develop the aircraft.

The ministry said the latest contract is part of the government’s investment of more than £2 billion on the project, which will be spread out over the next four years.

With the contract signed between the government and BAE Systems — one of the four founding members of Team Tempest that also includes Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce and MBDA UK — the Future Combat Air System program has entered its concept and assessment phase.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace made the announcement Thursday at BAE Systems’ Warton facility, calling the deal a “multimillion-pound investment that draws on the knowledge and skills of our U.K. industry experts.”

“Boosting our already world-leading air industry, the contract will sustain thousands of jobs across the U.K. and will ensure that the U.K. remains at the top table when it comes to combat air,” he said.

The government’s lead for future combat air capabilities, Richard Berthon, called the FCAS effort “hugely important in ensuring the U.K. and its partners have the skills and technology we need to give us the battle-winning edge for the future.”

“Developing the system allows us to drive a revolution in digital development and harness the power of open-systems architecture,” Berthon added.

Italy and Sweden are also involved with the sixth-generation fighter jet program, having signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.K. in 2020, with plans to share the workload on developing the aircraft. Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo said Thursday that the Tempest project will serve as “a game changer” for British and Italian technological innovation.

And earlier this month, Wallace met with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi, in Tokyo where they agreed to accelerate bilateral discussions on developing subsystems for the program, including for power and propulsion.

Meanwhile, the Franco-German-Spanish effort to produce a future combat jet — also called the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS for short — is set to launch its research and development phase this fall.

Germany’s Air Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, told Defense News this month that he hopes the two programs will merge so there is more interoperability between NATO allies.

“It can be that we go on different tracks. Hopefully we will merge eventually,” Gerhartz said.

Chris Martin is the managing editor for Defense News. His interests include Sino-U.S. affairs, cybersecurity, foreign policy and his yorkie Willow.

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