Douglas Barrie/LONDON

The UK Ministry of Defence has delayed by a further two years the in-service date (ISD) of its next-generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) for the Eurofighter EF2000. An ISD of 2007 is now expected.

The lengthening delays to the BVRAAM project make it inevitable that the Royal Air Force's EF2000 will initially enter service in the air-defence role fitted with Hughes AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. An ISD of 2003-5 had previously been anticipated for the BVRAAM. With the RAF receiving its first EF2000 at the end of 2001, an operational capability was expected to be declared by around 2003-4.

The MoD declines to comment on the ISD for the BVRAAM, beyond saying that it will be determined once two project-definition and risk-reduction (PDRR) studies are completed.

Teams led by Hughes UK and Matra BAe Dynamics are carrying out two 12-month PDRR studies on their respective offerings to meet the BVRAAM requirement.

The latest delay leaves the RAF with the choice of either deploying the aircraft without a BVR engagement capability, or equipping it with the AIM-120.

A similar choice will face the other Eurofighter partner nations. Italy, Germany and Spain were all looking to the BVRAAM project to form the core of a European solution, based on a Matra BAe-led team winning the programme.

The RAF is in the process of integrating the active radar-guided AIM-120 on its Panavia F3 Tornado air-defence variants.

Source: Flight International