Douglas Barrie/LONDON

BRITISH AEROSPACE will lead bids to sell a variant of the Matra Apache stand-off missile to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a collaborative agreement with the French manufacturer.

The two companies have teamed to offer a derivative of the Apache, dubbed the Storm Shadow, to meet the Royal Air Force's Staff Requirement (Air) 1236 for a conventional stand-off missile (CASOM).

Part of the agreement also covers potential export sales of the UK derivative. BAe refuses to comment on which countries this covers, but sources confirm that it is aimed at the two Middle East states.

The Storm Shadow, was one of seven standoff weapons, offered to meet SR(A)1236 earlier this month. The others were the Daimler-Benz Aerospace/Saab KEPD 350, Texas Instruments/Shorts Joint Standoff Weapon, Rafael Popeye Turbo, GEC-Marconi/Kentron Pegasus, Hughes/Smiths Industries Airhawk and the McDonnell Douglas/Hunting Grand Slam.

The UK Ministry of Defence is expected make a shortlist of two or three final contenders by early 1996, with a contract award to the winner by the first quarter of 1997.

The RAF intends to deploy the CASOM on its Panavia Tornado GR4s, British Aerospace Harrier GR7s and Eurofighter EF2000s. An initial in-service date of 1999-2000, is believed to be projected.

BAe's Storm Shadow will differ from the Apache in that it is likely to have an imaging infra red seeker developed by rival, GEC. The Grand Slam and, possibly, the Popeye, may also have been offered with the same technology.

GEC is also bidding to win the UAE's requirement for a standoff weapon, having already developed the Hakim family of rocket-powered precision-guided munitions for the UAE with money from the Gulf State. The PGM 4 on offer is thought to be of the same design as the Pegasus.

Some sources indicate, however, that the UAE has not released any design funding for the PGM 4 and is instead intent on holding a competition.

Source: Flight International