A high-level UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) committee is expected to make re- commendations on two key Royal Air force procurement projects in March, although both programmes could face being delayed.

The ú500-600 million ($810-975 million) Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) and the ú850-900 million Future Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (FMRAAM) projects will be considered by the Equipment Approval Committee (EAC).

A decision on the ASTOR programme had been expected in the first quarter of 1997, with Lockheed Martin- and Raytheon E-Systems- led teams competing for the project. The MoD now says that a decision will not be made until November, with industry sources speculating that this may slip again.

The procurement process faces further complication if a new Government is elected, as the Labour Party plans to review defence and security. This could delay projects by 6-12 months.

The FMRAAM project is intended to provide the RAF with a next-generation active-radar-guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile for the Eurofighter EF2000. Hughes is offering a derivative of the AIM-120 AMRAAM, while a Matra British Aerospace Dynamics-led consortium is offering the Meteor missile. While industry sources suggest that the EAC would like to clear the MoD to make some form of an announcement on the FMRAAM, several options are still being considered including a 12 month risk-reduction phase.

Following the EAC's deliberations on ASTOR, the two teams are expected to be asked to provide best and final offers for five synthetic-aperture/moving-target-indicator radar equipped aircraft. The MoD also hopes to offer the selected ASTOR solution to meet a similar NATO requirement. NATO will discuss this requirement in November.

Source: Flight International