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UK and Germany in clash over seeker for Eurofighter missile

Douglas Barrie/LondonAndrzej jeziorski/munich

The UK and Germany are at loggerheads over the choice of a seeker to meet a potential common future medium range air to air missile requirement.

A team led by Matra BAe Dynamics - and including Germany's Dasa LFK missile unit - is offering the Meteor missile in competition for the Royal Air Force's Future Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (FMRAAM) to arm the EurofighterEF2000.

Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK have been trying to patch together a European collaborative programme for the development.

Different time scales and differing procurement and technical approaches continue to shackle attempts to draw the respective national requirements together. Bonn sources say that German defence officials are becoming increasingly exasperated with the UK Ministry of Defence.

The Meteor proposal is based on a development of the GEC-Marconi active radar seeker used in the Matra BAe Mica 4A air to air missile (AAM). GECis leading the seeker development for the Meteor.

Germany is pushing a dual mode seeker design by Bodenseewerk Geratetechnik (BGT). This was originally intended for the LFK A3M next generation AAM.

Debate over a medium range missile for Eurofighter generates heats up

Matra BAe Dynamics is in competition with Raytheon, the latter offering a development of the AIM-120 AMRAAM for the £850 million ($1.4 billion) FMRAAM contract to supply around 1,000 missiles to the RAF's EF2000 fleet. The in-service date is expected to be 2007.

The BGT proposal is based around a Ku-band active radar seeker with an imaging infrared array for terminal guidance and aim point selection.

There are concerns over this approach, say sources, based on the cost and risk of development to meet the initial time scale.

The German defence ministry is continuing to provide funding to LFK for development work on the A3M missile.

Industry sources say the Germans threaten that, if the UK MoD decides in favour of Raytheon, Germany will then develop the A3M either independently or in collaboration with Italy and Sweden.

BGT is also believed to be looking at a collaboration with Raytheon. This would involve marrying its seeker to a development of the AIM-120, almost certainly with a ramjet powerplant.

A European-designed seeker married to a rocket ramjet powered AMRAAM derivative could meet European worries over export clearance by the USA.

The BGT seeker would give similar concerns for the UK, however. To meet the UK requirement, it is likely that GEC- Marconi would have to play a considerable role in any seeker work.

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