In a surprising twist, Saudi Arabia has expressed keen interest in becoming a part of the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), a multinational initiative aimed at developing cutting-edge sixth-generation combat aircraft by 2035.

A Strategic Shift: Saudi Arabia Eyes Global Combat Air Program

Initially comprising the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan, the program now grapples with a dilemma as Saudi Arabia expresses its desire to become a participant. The kingdom’s request has ignited debates, raised concerns, and exposed divisions among the existing partners.

Officially known as the GCAP, this ambitious project is expected to result in a state-of-the-art exportable fighter jet – also known as Tempest –that could accordingly reshape the dynamics of modern warfare. The program, which has been in the works for several years, has garnered significant attention due to its potential to revolutionize the defense capabilities of the participating nations and their allies.

Saudi Arabia’s unexpected bid to join the program comes as a surprise to many, but it is rooted in strategic and economic considerations. The kingdom’s efforts to become a member began in July when it directly approached the Japanese government with the proposal to expand the program to include Saudi Arabia. While the United Kingdom has welcomed the idea, Japan has expressed strong opposition.

Welcoming Saudi Arabia: UK’s Strategic Calculations

London’s willingness to include Saudi Arabia is driven by the existing strategic partnerships between the two nations, particularly in defense. A senior British defense official remarked: