STEWART PENNEY / LONDON
Discussions have begun between region's missile houses to develop an Armiger/Meteor anti-radiation weapon
Europe's missile manufacturers have started talks aimed at developing a next generation anti-radiation missile (ARM) to replace the Raytheon AGM-88 HARM and Matra BAE Dynamics Alarm.
Industry sources say that the French/Italian/UK MBDA and Germany's BGT are discussing linking up to produce a new anti-radar weapon that would combine the dual-mode seeker from BGT's Armiger programme with the fuselage and propulsion system of the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile. MBDA and its partners are in negotiations with national governments to develop Meteor.
Using the Meteor as the basis for an ARM will ease the integration tasks with Eurofighter, as much data will read across, says an industry source. Armiger, like HARM, is too big to fit in the under-fuselage recesses on Eurofighters and other fighters. A Meteor ARM could be carried in place of air-to-air weapons, freeing up wing stations for other munitions - potentially bombs to destroy missile batteries and command and control systems, destroying the air defence capability and not just the radar.
Meteor will also be specified by the UK as a Joint Strike Fighter weapon, which would allow MBDA/BGT to offer an ARM for that platform.
An Armiger/Meteor ARM would be likely to come into service around 2010, when Eurofighter Tranche 3 deliveries are due and when the Meteor air-to-air weapon is due to enter operational use.
Armiger's dual seeker combines a radio-frequency and imaging infrared (I2R) seekers. The former will detect the radar transmissions, while the I2Rseeker will be able to detect, identify and target the radar rather than another element of the air defence system. Missile guidance includes a GPS satellite/inertial navigation system.
A German source acknowledges that international partners are being sought for Armiger which has German defence ministry funding until at least 2003. Guided seeker trials are planned for 2003-4, with firings of the missile with representative airframe, autopilot, functional inlets and a radome to take place this year or next.
One industry official says the future of a European ARM will depend on whether the German air force restricts its suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD)capability to its Panavia Tornado ECRs or if its Eurofighters - slated for air defence - are given a SEAD role. Italy and the UK also operate Tornados in the SEAD role. Germany and the UK have proposed joint development of future SEAD systems and operations. France's participation, however, will require a change of philosophy as it does not have ARMs.
Elettronica and BAE Systems are working on Eurofighter electronic warfare systems linked with differential GPS that will allow the precision location of radars by two fighters (Flight International, 8-14 May). This would be used to cue ARMs, and allow an attack if the radar is turned off. Today's weapons can only home on a radar's transmissions, and their success is limited, with the emitter often being turned off rather than destroyed.
Missile propulsion specialist Bayern Chemie is developing the ramjets for Armiger and Meteor. Ramjet propulsion provides greater range than today's missiles and a fast response, reducing the target's ability to deploy countermeasures. Armiger's range is more than a 100km (55nm), which a Meteor airframe should be able to match.
Boeing, the US Meteor partner, has studied the missile as a future US Navy ARM. It recently received approval to share the study's results with MBDA.