THE US GOVERNMENT is to release the Hughes AIM-120 Advanced Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to support its manufacturers in the country's strike-fighter competition.

Sources close to the UAE fighter programme claim that the USA decided in July to make it clear to the UAE that the AIM-120 would be available were it to select a US aircraft to meet its requirement for up to 80 strike-fighter aircraft.

The active-radar-guided AIM-120 has not yet officially been cleared for any of the states in the Middle East region, including Saudi Arabia or Israel.

The release of the AMRAAM beyond-visual-range missile is a key issue, according to US fighter manufacturers involved in the competition. McDonnell Douglas is offering the F-15U, a derivative of the F-15E, while Lockheed Martin is pushing the F-16C/D Block 50 as well as the F-16ES.

Other competitors include France, offering the Mirage 2000-5 and the Rafale, while British Aerospace is pursuing the deal with a Panavia Tornado GR1 leasing offer coupled to a latter purchase of the Eurofighter EF2000. Russia's Sukhoi offer is based on the Su-27 Flanker while MiG-MAPO is still trying to interest the UAE in variants of the MiG-29 Fulcrum.

France is willing to release the active-radar variant of the Matra Mica for the UAE and Russia's Vympel design bureau is offering the export variant of the R-77 (AA-12 Adder), effectively for any platform. Unwillingness to release the AIM-120 would considerably damage the chances of a US manufacturer winning the lucrative order.

Hughes will not confirm officially that the AMRAAM was to be made available to the UAE, saying only that it believed that the US Government "...would seriously consider approving AMRAAM for delivery with the aircraft", if a US aircraft were chosen.

Along with the release of the AIM-120 to the UAE, the USA is also expected to offer the missile, to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The Royal Saudi Air Force's (RSAF) purchase of the F-15S included in the letter of acceptance the option for the provision of the Raytheon AIM-7F. The RSAF, however, is not taking up on this option.

The UAE is likely to decide on a fighter early early in 1996.

Source: Flight International