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German missile deal draws close

GERMAN MISSILE manufacturer Bodenseewerk Geratetechnik (BGT) expects to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering the definition phase of the IRIS-T air-to-air missile programme with international partners in April.

The infra-red-guided IRIS-T is intended to fulfil Germany's requirement for a new short-range missile to arm its Eurofighter EF2000s and Panavia Tornados in the next century.

Preliminary partnership talks with Canada, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden, all of which are looking for a successor to the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, have finished. A draft MoU is now awaiting approval from the partner Governments. According to BGT the industrial partners are ready to sign the MoU now.

BGT declines to says which companies are likely to become partners in the programme, although it is known that talks have been held with AlliedSignal Aerospace Canada on actuation systems, and with Raufoss of Norway on the rocket motor.

"We believe that in the second half of the year, we will be under contract," says BGT. The German company will be the prime contractor in the programme and Germany will provide about 50% of the funding.

Government sources say that BGT's contract is likely to be worth DM26.5 million ($18 million). The development phase is scheduled to begin in late 1997, and the missile is to enter service in 2002.

The company has recently finished wind tunnel tests on the current IRIS-T configuration. The main body of the missile matches the dimensions of a Sidewinder, with cruciform forward stabilisers, mid-body wings and rear control fins. The body is thickened at the fins to accommodate the control systems for the fins and thrust-vectoring system.

Although this thickening does add a drag penalty, BGT claims that the small, forward stabilisers and thin wings more than compensate for this.

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