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UK urged to wait on deep strike system choice

UK industry has urged the Ministry of Defence to postpone its selection of platforms for the Royal Air Force's Future Offensive Aircraft System (FOAS) to take advantage of the latest technologies and to benefit from European industrial co-operation.

The MoD is expected to decide in March 2000 whether to proceed with a manned aircraft, uninhabited air vehicle, configuring a transport to deliver conventional air launched cruise missiles or a force mix involving all three concepts. The RAF is searching for a deep strike system to succeed the Tornado GR4 after 2017.

British Aerospace, which has secured two-thirds of the Government funding for the FOAS technology studies, is asking the Government not to impose an unnecessary concept freeze before the latest technologies can be properly evaluated for performance and cost efficiency. "FOAS has been chosen as the lead programme under the Government's Strategic Defence Review and so the MoD needs to make its decisions on a product as late as possible," BAe FOAS project director Martin Blaze says. "So, in March 2000, they will be making a decision 17 years before the first aircraft goes into service."

BAe wants to see the MoD align its platform decision-making with its selection of the avionics, sensors, weapons, propulsion and structural technologies, which will be evaluated after a four-year Technology Definition Phase starting in January 1999. About 650 technologies from French and UK firms have already been identified by BAe and its FOAS alliance partners, GEC, Matra BAe Dynamics, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Industries in the UK and Lockheed Martin of the USA, including low observables, robotics and pilotless cockpits. "There is an intense range of multiple capabilities asked to be embraced in one specification of system," Blaze says.