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Italy to join Britain's Tempest fighter jet project

Italy will work with Britain on its planned Tempest fighter plane programme as part of an agreement to deepen the countries' air combat relationship, Britain's defence ministry said on Wednesday.

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LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Italy will work with Britain on its planned Tempest fighter plane programme as part of an agreement to deepen the countries' air combat relationship, Britain's defence ministry said on Wednesday.

Italy joins Sweden in agreeing a pact to co-operate with Britain on fighter jets as the UK looks to get Tempest, its proposed replacement for the Eurofighter Typhoon programme, off the ground.

"The agreement covers existing platforms such as Typhoon and F-35, as well as Tempest, the programme initiated by the UK to develop a next generation combat air system," the ministry said in a statement.

Britain last year unveiled plans for a fighter plane and cohort of drones named Tempest, raising questions about the future of European defence co-operation as France and Germany pursue their own air combat programme to meet growing threats.

Italy joins the programme after Sweden said in July that it could join the planned next-generation UK fighter project. L8N24K3Z9

Tempest, meant to eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon from 2040, will be developed and built by BAE Systems BAES.L, Britain’s biggest defence company, alongside UK engine maker Rolls-Royce RR.L, the UK arm of Italian defence firm Leonardo LDOF.MI and European missile maker MBDA.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by David Milliken and Giles Elgood)

((alistair.smout@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7064; Reuters Messaging: alistair.smout.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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