Italy said on Saturday it will be an equal partner in the next-generation fighter program with Britain and Japan, as further talks are still underway on the project, including on where to base its headquarters.

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.

Reuters on Thursday reported that Japan and Britain were going to dominate design and manufacturing on the project, with London likely to lead its organisation due to its deeper and more recent experience in jet fighter development.

"The Global Combat Air Programme, or GCAP, is an actual trinational programme based on the principle of equal sharing, as the Prime Ministers stated in the Joint Ministerial Declaration last December," an Italian defence ministry statement said.

"The final decision will therefore encompass an equal and balanced share of costs and benefits."

Reuters also reported the three partner countries were planning to choose Britain as the headquarters.

Italy said discussions are ongoing on this among the governments and the industrial partners.

"The three Ministries of Defence are currently conduc

ting a study on the most suitable governance to achieve the capability goal by 2035," the Italian defence ministry statement said.

"All other information amounts to pure speculation."

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)