The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is expected to issue a request for tender (RFT) by mid-year for a short-range air-to-air missile (AAM) for its McDonnell Douglas F-18A/Bs.

After months of delay, manufacturers are now confident that an RFT will be forthcoming within the next four months for a "within-visual-range" missile Sidewinder replacement, as part of the RAAF's project AIR 5400.

It is expected that this will be followed by a similar invitation to tender for a longer-range active- guided AAM replacement for the Raytheon AIM-7 Sparrow. Contenders for the shorter-range-missile requirement are Rafael, of- fering the Python-4 and Matra British Aerospace Dynamics, offering its Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM).

Hughes is also expected to offer its recently selected US Air Force/Navy AIM-9X, although there are doubts over whether this will be available to meet the AIR 5400 timetable.

The Python-4 has already been test fired from an RAAF F-18, while ASRAAM fit-and-carriage trials on the aircraft have been completed. A final selection is pencilled in for the end of year, or early 1998, with a contract being awarded shortly afterwards.

The RAAF aims to take delivery of the first missile by 2000. While no statement of requirements has yet officially been released, the RAAF is believed to be looking for a missile with an imaging infra-red seeker head, an off-boresight capability of 90¹, or greater, and compatibility with a pilot helmet- mounted cueing system.

Source: Flight International