Europe aims to match US in Star Wars.

TIM RIPLEY reports

Europe's missile industry wants to participate on equal terms with US companies in any bid to provide the continent with ‘star wars' defence against ballistic missiles threats from rogue states, MBDA chief Fabrice Bergier said at the show yesterday. The head of the Anglo-French-Italian company entered the missile defence controversy the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to restart the nuclear arms race if US President George W Bush went ahead with his ballistic missile defence (BMD) plan and Taiwan carried out a "flawless" test firing of Raytheon's PAC-2 Patriot anti-missile system. While Bergier acknowledges that the ultimate decision about European participation is up to political leaders, he is determined to get part of the action for his company if any scheme gets the go-ahead. "It is a key theme for us. We have to offer maximum flexibility and capabilities," he says. Last month successful test firing of the company's Aster 30 missile was a great boost to Bergier's ambitions to be a partner on any NATO defence shield project. "The lower segment of BMD can be developed with deep involvement of European technology, especially MBDA", he says. "We are passionate about Aster. It is one of our brightest stars, a key capability for us." Bergier stresses that projects such as Aster gave his company the capability, size and credibility to be a strong European partner in transatlantic coooperation.

The first stage of Bergier strategy will fit into place next year if France and Italy give the go-ahead to buy 900 Aster 30 land-based missiles at a cost of $2.5 billion, to allow the SAMP/T defence system to be operational by 2005. SAMP/T Block 1 system will be able to defend hundreds of square kilometres against Scud and Super Scud threats using hit-to-kill technology.

Mario di Donato, MBDA's joint chief operating officer, says the system has had a very successful track record, hitting four out of four targets in trials. "This is not a paper system; it is a real system, it is ready to be in service by 2005."

Source: Flight Daily News