BGT parent Diehl VA Systeme is hopeful that Spain will become the first Boeing F/A-18 Hornet operator to order the IRIS-T short-range, infrared-guided air-to-air missile (AAM).

BGT is leading a multinational consortium - comprising companies from Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden - developing the missile. Canada is participating in the development programme, which is due to be concluded this year, but withdrew from the procurement phase last year.

If all the remaining partners order the missile - a decision on which is due in the middle of this year - it will be integrated with the Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin F-16, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, Panavia Tornado and Saab/BAE Systems Gripen.

Canada's withdrawal from procurement leaves the IRIS-T without an F/A-18 operator to integrate the weapon. Diehl managing director operations Eberhard Kiefer says it is hoped that "Spain will become a full consortium member in two months".

The IRIS-T is competing against the MBDA ASRAAM in Spain, where the European missile company has established a company as part of the development of the Meteor radar-guided beyond visual range AAM.

The latest successful IRIS-T firing, at the end of last month, was against a manoeuvring target using countermeasures. Further tests are planned, which could run into early 2003.

The company says Norwegian consortium member NAMMO has fixed a problem with the rocket motor, which caused some test failures (Flight International, 17-23 April 2001).

Initial production missiles are due to be built next year for delivery in 2004 and BGT is proposing a ground-launched version for army air defence units.

Source: Flight International