Australian defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon has expressed concerns about the integration of the Eurotorp MU90 lightweight air-launched torpedo on the Royal Australian Air Force's Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and the navy's Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopters.

Concerns with the airborne element of the MU90 project follow the successful test firing of the torpedo from an Australian warship in mid-June under the A$616 million ($587 million) Joint Project 2070.

The MU90 is 3m (9.8ft) long, weighs 300kg (660lb) and has a range of greater than 10km (5.4nm). The weapon is designed to track and attack submarines at depths to more than 1,000m.

Fitzgibbon says that integration on the aircraft "would likely involve a high degree of risk, due to the fact that no other country has integrated the MU90 on to these aircraft, the degree of systems integration required and the age of the aircraft."

A new defence White Paper due for completion by year-end will help to determine whether the risk is justified, the government says. Since coming to office late last year the government has already scrapped the A$1 billion Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite helicopter programme following years of delays, and is adverse to taking additional risks in defence projects.

Meanwhile, Australia has successfully tested Raytheon's ALR-67(V)3 radar warning receiver on an air force Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet. The entire fleet will have the electronic warfare self-protection upgrade by late 2012. The RAAF has also accepted the operational and technical airworthiness of Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kit for use with the aircraft.

Australia has also ordered 18 Raytheon advanced targeting forward looking infrared pods for its new fleet of 24 F/A-18F Block II+ Super Hornets on order for delivery from 2010.

Source: Flight International