The Australian Department of Defence has short listed the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Strike Missile (JASSM)for its Project Air 5418 air-launched Follow On Stand Off Weapon requirement. JASSM is on the cusp of entering service with the US Air Force and completion of the deal would be its first success in the export market.

The German/Swedish Taurus KEPD350, however, has also been retained in the competition as a fall-back option should Lockheed Martin not meet requirements.

Australian Defence Material Organisation officials advised all programme contenders on 31 July that JASSM has been identified as the "stand-out solution".

Losing contenders, including Taurus, were told that the KEPD350's short listing was based on a desire to ensure the project did not prejudge the consideration of stand-off weapon requirements as part of the development process for a new defence white paper.

Other contenders comprised Raytheon, Boeing and an Israeli Military Industries/BAE Systems Australia team.

Lockheed Martin's Australian team-mates are RLM Systems and ATI, who will integrate the JASSM Link 16 based control system. Taurus is teamed with Australia's Saab Tech and Science and the US-based Applied Technologies.

An official announcement is expected within the next two weeks. No decisions on whether to proceed with the acquisition are expected for at least two years. Australia plans to award aircraft integration studies to Lockheed Martin and Taurus early next year.

The country wants the weapon in service from 2005 aboard General Dynamics F-111C and Lock-heed Martin AP-3C Orions.

Source: Flight International