Douglas Barrie/LONDON

A FRENCH PROPOSAL to sell a version of Matra Defense's Apache air-launched stand-off weapon to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could contravene the international Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) agreement, according to sources close to some of the signatory nations.

The Apache missile variant on offer, dubbed the "Black Shahine", to meet the UAE requirement for a stand off weapon, is causing concern within the MTCR organisation.

The sources say that there is mounting discomfort over whether the weapon threatens to break, at least in spirit, the MTCR Category One guidelines.

Category One is intended to restrict the proliferation of long-range missiles and covers weapons capable of delivering a 500kg payload a distance of 300km (160nm).

One of Matra's main competitors for the requirement, GEC-Marconi, has already fallen foul of the MTCR agreement with its Centaur bid. The company's initial design was rejected, by the UK Ministry of Defence, which believed that its range could be, too easily increased. A revised design proposal has since been approved.

While the detail of the French bid is not yet clear, there is concern that the modularity of the Apache-based weapon means that it will be capable of breaching the 500kg/300km guidelines.

If the Black Shahine falls outside the Category One guidelines, France would be obliged to approach its partners, within the MTCR, asking for a one off approval for the missile, or to request permission to modify the design to meet the guidelines. Matra is unavailable to comment.

Source: Flight International