Paul Lewis/PATUXENT RIVER
The Spanish navy is looking to arm the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus with the Kongsberg Penguin anti-ship missile (ASM), after completing Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM envelope expansion flight tests.
Subject to funding, the navy, plans to order the Norwegian ASM for the Harrier and Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopter as an offset for Oslo purchasing Spanish built frigates.
Originally Spain, along with Italy, wanted to integrate the Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon with the Harrier but failed to get US Marine Corps funding support. The missile was also deemed too heavy. The Italian navy is believed to be looking at the Alenia Marconi Systems Marte Mk2 for its 16 AV-8Bs.
The two countries have just completed a jointly funded effort to expand the AV-8B's AMRAAM carriage envelope from an initial +3g/-1g limit. "We're not very happy with that and we decided to increase the envelope of the weapon to make it similar to the [Raytheon] AIM-9," says a Spanish AV-8B programme official.
Flight testing at the US Navy's China Lake facility has been completed and data is now being analysed to confirm a +7g/-3g envelope. The Italian and Spanish aircraft will be able to carry four AMRAAMs on the two inboard and two intermediate wing hardpoints.
Missile firing trials and an initial operating capability are having to wait for the completion of the Harrier II's ongoing Open System Core Avionics Requirement (OSCAR) upgrade due in late 2001. The tripartite OSCAR programme, which includes USMC funding, focuses on new high mission and weapon management computers using high order language software.
Work has just started to integrate the Rafael Litening II targeting and navigation pod with Italian and Spanish USMC Harriers. The pod will be fitted to the aircraft's inboard pylon. The Spanish and Italian navies plan to receive initial systems next April.
In the meantime, the AV-8B Plus remanufacturing line faces a production gap unless new orders can be secured by July. Spain will take delivery of the final two aircraft in June and July 2003 unless funds can be found to upgrade its remaining seven AV-8Bs. The US Congress is considering funding four more conversions in addition to the 72 ordered.
Source: Flight International