Italy and Spain have agreed to pay all the costs of integrating the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile on the Boeing AV-8BHarrier II Plus. Boeing has been awarded an $85.5 million contract, funded 50:50 by Italy and Spain, to perform the work.

The Europeans had expressed concern that the US Marine Corps, which developed the radar-equipped Harrier II Plus under a collaborative programme with the Italian and Spanish navies, was dragging its feet on AMRAAM integration because it has no operational requirement for the weapon.

The Marine Corps confirms it will pay nothing towards the integration effort, but will act as the flight clearance authority. Boeing will develop the software and manufacture integration kits for installation in-country on Italy's 17 aircraft and Spain's eight radar-equipped AV-8Bs. The aircraft is scheduled to be operational with AMRAAM by December 2001.

The Italian and Spanish navies will arm their aircraft with the AIM-120B version, carrying the medium-range missile on four underwing pylons. The Marine Corps, while emphasising that it has no current requirement for the AMRAAM, says it would, if the need emerged, fit the upgraded AIM-120C. This would require separate integration tests, it says.

The Europeans have also asked for integration of the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile on the Harrier II Plus, and say proposals for a joint programme have been rebuffed by the USA. The Marine Corps, however, says it is not aware of any interest in integrating the Harpoon on the aircraft.

Source: Flight International