Carol Reed/LONDON


The Royal Air Force is stepping up pressure on the UK Ministry of Defence to release funds to improve its precision strike capability in the wake of shortcomings exposed during last year's air campaign against Yugoslavia.

Air Marshal Sir John Day, UK director of operations during the campaign, says the RAF is waiting for funding for a global positioning system (GPS) conversion of its Paveway II laser-guided bombs (LGBs) as an immediate solution to a need for an all-weather precision attack weapon. The RAF has also called for accelerated procurement of secure radios, integration of the Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick missile with the British Aerospace Harrier GR7, plus suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) assets.

Day says the MoD is about to sign-off funding to equip 450kg (1,000lb) Paveway II LGBs with GPS. Up to 1,000 will be converted, overcoming the weapon's inability to penetrate cloud cover. Bad weather strikes underlined the need for secure communications.

SEAD should be a "high priority", says Day, as it was "a crucial factor in successfully minimising aircraft losses". Day says that many nations, including the UK, need to invest in SEAD, adding: "I think we will see more about this [in the UK] over the coming months. It is a major force multiplier and governs the tempo of operations."

An RAF attempt to obtain Maverick anti-armour missiles during the Kosovo crisis was overtaken by the end of the conflict. The emergency procurement was pushed through in the wake of growing concerns by the allies over the poor strike rate against Yugoslav units. Since then, RAF attempts to procure the weapon are understood to have been stymied by the Treasury.

The MoD declines to comment on whether the release of funds for the Maverick is an issue, but says it is "considering lessons learned from the Kosovo conflict, including issue of anti-armour weapons"

RAF Harriers should have been fitted with the Alenia Marconi Systems Brimstone missile. MoD vacillation means deliveries are years behind schedule.

Source: Flight International