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UK takes more of Meteor to plug gap

PAUL LEWIS /WASHINGTON DC

German reduction in missile programme to be covered

The UK has taken an additional 5% share of the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile programme to cover the shortfall in Germany's participation.

The agreement allows signing of the £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) contract to launch development and initial production of the ramjet-powered, radar-guided weapon.

Workshare changes were needed following a German budget meeting on 18 December which approved a revised Meteor procurement of 600 against the planned 1,488 (Flight International, 10-16 December 2002).

Germany's programme share has now shrunk from 21% to 16%, with the UK picking up the 5%, boosting its stake to 39.6%. The remaining shareholdings are unchanged - France 12.4%, Italy 12%, Spain 10% and Sweden 10%.

Despite the UK's increased share, the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) says the UK's development and production costs "remain within the overall UK budget", and there is no change to the planned initial production. The UK is the only member of the six-nation partnership to commit funds beyond development. A package of systems development work will be transferred to MBDAUK from Germany in line with the workshare swap.

Meteor development is planned to take eight years, leading to service entry on the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab JAS39 Gripen. Service entry on the UK's Typhoons is scheduled for 2012.

The first key milestone, scheduled for 2005, will be a Meteor firing from an operational Gripen. Subsequent development firings will be from in-service Typhoons, scheduled for the programme's fourth year. Meteor integration with the Rafale will be run as a parallel activity.

Meanwhile, the DPA says there are no plans to integrate Meteor with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), which Italy and the UK plan to acquire from 2012. MBDA says Meteor will not fit in the JSF's internal weapons bays, so would have to be hung from the wing if the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM is to be replaced.

Additional Reporting By Michael Phelan In London

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