HUGHES AIRCRAFT and Raytheon have submitted a joint bid to produce the Standard surface-to-air missile for the US Navy. The two companies, which compete for annual Standard production contracts, have proposed the formation of a joint venture, Standard Missile, to build the weapon.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) confirms that a joint bid has been received from Hughes and Raytheon. Reports suggest that the Navy and DoD support the proposal, but anti-trust approval will be required before Standard Missile can be set up. A similar joint venture between cluster-bomb manufacturers Alliant Techsystems and Aerojet was blocked in 1994.

Navy purchases of missiles are being cut back to a point where it is becoming uneconomical to maintain two competing sources. In 1994, Hughes beat McDonnell Douglas in the Navy's "winner-takes-all" contest for continued Tomahawk cruise-missile production, which was forced by procurement cuts. The Navy is thought to favour a joint venture for Standard production, as it would preserve technology, which resides in each company.

Hughes is developing a theatre-missile-defence (TMD) version of the Standard for the US Navy. This features an additional booster stage and a third stage, which carries the light exo-atmospheric projectile (LEAP) interceptor. The first Standard TMD flight-test failed earlier this year because of a missile-navigation software fault. A second flight-test is planned for 28 March, carrying the competing Rockwell LEAP.

Hughes and Raytheon had previously joined forces on the Navy's cancelled Advanced Air-to-Air Missile and have agreed to bid jointly for the new US/French/German Medium Extended Air Defence System surface-to-air missile programme.

Source: Flight International