France's participation in the $2billion Scalp EG precision guided cruise missile programme is "not in doubt", say Matra BAe Dynamics executives.

They dismiss rumours that the recent change of government in Paris has endangered the French element of the joint project with Britain. "It will happen," says Charles Carr, head of public affairs.

"The contract has been signed but has not yet taken effect," says Carr, who stresses that this does imply any uncertainty - only a difference in the procurement process on either side of the Channel. It is working through the French bureaucracy, which is just different."

Britain signed up to the programme in February with a $1.12billion order for the Storm Shadow version of the 250km range weapon. Scalp EG is essentially similar to the British missile. Both are developments of the Apache A weapon.

Frederic Aragon, head of public affairs for Lagardere, the company's French parent, says the Apache A programme is well advanced and mass production will start next year.

He says the money to pay for the 140km range anti-runway stealth missile is already in the 1997-2002 French defence budget and a final contract would be signed before the end of the summer.

The Apache A has completed full-scale development - and has recently been tested over long ranges in Sweden. "We have progressed to the industrialisation phase," he says.

Source: Flight Daily News