Japan, Britain and Italy plan to choose Britain as the headquarters for their next-generation fighter program, four sources in Japan said, putting London at the forefront of a partnership that could expand to include other nations.

The three countries established the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) in December after Britain and Japan agreed to merge their fighter efforts in a ground-breaking collaboration that aims to deploy an advanced aircraft by the middle of the next decade.

Japan and Britain will dominate design and manufacturing on the project, with London's deeper and more recent experience in jet fighter development likely to give it a leading role in organizing the program, said three of the sources, who have knowledge of internal discussions.