British Aerospace, a loser in the initial Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) shortlist, will decide shortly whether to join forces with Boeing or Lockheed Martin, the US aerospace firms selected by the Pentagon to continue development of the next-generation tactical aircraft.

BAe had been teamed with McDonnell Douglas (MDC) and Northrop Grumman in bidding for tactical-aircraft manufacturing work worth billions of dollars.

The Pentagon plans to buy 3,000 JSFs, at an average target cost of $35 million, for the US military. The Royal Navy is seeking 50 aircraft to replace the BAe Sea Harrier F/A2 and the Royal Air Force will consider the aircraft as a Panavia Tornado GR4 replacement. An estimated 1,000-2,000 JSFs could be purchased elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas have signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) for co-operation on the JSF. Under the terms of the MoA, 20-50 MDC engineers will immediately transfer to Boeing's Seattle site to lend assistance.

An electronic network linking Seattle and MDC's St Louis base is being set up to allow an additional number of MDC engineers to work on the project.

Boeing says that specific areas of work for the MDC workers have yet to be determined. It says that discussions with MDC about a role on the Boeing JSF project began almost immediately after the shortlisting and before merger discussions intensified.

Late in 1996, Boeing announced its intention to purchase MDC for $13 billion, subject to Government approvals. Boeing says that MDC will remain a JSF partner regardless of whether the proposed merger goes ahead.

It is unclear whether Boeing is negotiating with Northrop Grumman about teaming on the JSF, but Lockheed Martin is talking to Northrop Grumman. Lockheed Martin says that it has never discussed a JSF role for MDC.

Source: Flight International