Andrea Spinelli/Genoa

The italian and US navies are to launch a joint study into a future family of anti-ship and land attack missiles. If the study succeeds, the Ìrst missiles could enter service in 2004.

The navies recently signed a memorandum of understanding covering a $2 million analysis-of- alternatives study, due to be submitted by the third quarter of 1998. The study will be implemented by the USN Naval Strike Warfare Centre, involving US and Italian naval staff.

The two nations will consider several systems as potential candidates to meet the requirement. Boeing's AGM-84 Harpoon and Harpoon 2000, as well as its Stand-off Land Attack Missile (SLAM), will be considered as baseline configurations, as well as Alenia Difesa's Teseo and the Teseo Mk3/ Ulisse weapons designs.

The joint study follows earlier shared work by Italy and the USA into developing a common operational concept for a family of stand-off missiles.

Sources close to the programme suggest that the Italian navy is promoting the project as a potential multi-service development, with the air force also seen as a possible partner in the programme.

The Italians have held discussions with the German air force over the Daimler-Benz Aerospace KEPD-350/Taurus stand-off missile as a candidate weapon to meet its needs. The air force has a requirement for a submunitions dispenser and unitary warhead variants of a stand-off missile.

The transatlantic initiative has also resulted in Boeing and Alenia Difesa holding exploratory talks about potential areas of collaboration. Sources suggest that while joint development of a family of missiles may prove overly ambitious, a more realistic target may be the joint development of key weapon subsystems.

Source: Flight International