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France aims for closer military-engine co-operation with UK

The French armaments directorate DGA is mounting an initiative designed to push co-operation between France and the UK on research into advanced military engines.

A senior DGA source says that there is a "possibility" of an announcement as early as this week's Paris air show on a joint-venture enterprise, owned by Rolls-Royce and Snecma. This would build on the existing co-operation under the advanced military engine technology (AMET) programme.

The initiative would form part of the wider European co-operation already taking place between British Aerospace and Dassault on advanced combat-aircraft technologies, and between Thomson-CSF, Daimler-Benz Aerospace and GEC-Marconi on the airborne multi-role solid-state active-array radar (Amsar) programme.

The UK Ministry of Defence has begun to look at its Future Offensive Air System (FOAS), intended to replace the Panavia Tornado GR4, with some of the preliminary studies into platform subsystems being carried out within an Anglo-French framework.

The proposed merger between Aerospatiale and Dassault, yet to be resolved by the new Government, is said by some to have slowed down collaborative overtures between French and UK industry.

According to the source, the aim is to "solidify" the existing "very good" military-engine relationship between Snecma and R-R and to look for ways in which the two can co-operate further. "They compete strongly in the civil area," says the DGA, "but we want to make sure that technology suitable for future military engines can be shared."

The FOAS would almost certainly be the first new airframe programme associated with the AMET and follow-on projects. The French air force does not yet have a stated requirement for a next-generation, long-range strike platform, although it has aspirations to acquire such an aircraft.

The Dassault Rafale has been used for its first firing of the Matra BAe Dynamics active-radar-guided Mica air-to-air missile using an ejector launch against a supersonic target at the Landes test range.