Marconi abandons FC-1 fighter bid

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Marconi Electronic Systems has dropped out of the bidding to supply the radar and avionics for the Chengdu FC1/ Super 7, just days ahead of the expected signing by China and Pakistan of a deal to develop the new fighter jointly.

The UK company confirms that it has not submitted a tender, leaving only Fiar and Thomson-CSF bidding for the sensor and cockpit avionics suite contract. Marconi's surprise move comes after its five-year marketing effort in China to participate in the Sino-Pakistan programme. The full reasons for the pull-out are not clear.

Marconi claims that it chose to opt out because it could not meet the terms and conditions of the deal being laid down by China and Pakistan, which were based on a risk and revenue sharing arrangement. But other sources suggest that its withdrawal was politically driven and linked to a deterioration in relations between London and Beijing over the Kosovo conflict and the recent NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

It is unclear whether this has had any effect on Marconi's equally long-running discussions with the Chinese air force to sell its Argus 2000 airborne early warning radar installed on an Ilyushin Il-76. Negotiations had reached deadlock on price between the $270 million offer from Marconi for the four systems and the $200 million ceiling set by China.

Marconi had hoped to use the Pakistan Super 7 version of the FC-1 as a launch platform for its Blue Hawk lightweight multimode radar. Its integrated package included multifunction displays, an inertial navigation system, head-up display and mission computer.

Fiar's rival bid is based around the Grifo S7 radar, while Thomson-CSF is competing with the RC400.