Douglas Barrie/LONDON

SENIOR UK and US defence ministry officials met in London in mid-December to explore the possible compatibility of two multi-billion dollar stand-off-missile projects.

The US Air Force's programme executive officer for tactical systems, Harry Schulte, was due to visit his UK counterparts to discuss potential areas of commonality between the US joint air-to- surface stand-off missile (JASSM) and the Royal Air Force's conventional stand-off missile (CASOM).

The UK Ministry of Defence has already asked all seven contenders, bidding for the CASOM programme, about cost savings possible if the RAF missile, or a derivative was also selected, by a second country (Flight International, 13-19 December).

The seven contenders, Matra/ British Aerospace (with the Storm Shadow); GEC-Marconi (the Pegasus); Hughes/Smiths Industries (the AirHawk); McDonnell Douglas/ Hunting (the Grand Slam); Texas Instruments/Shorts (the Joint Stand-Off Weapon P3I); Rafael (the Popeye Turbo) and Daimler-Benz (the KEPD 350), have until 4 January to respond.

US industry sources say that merging the US JASSM and UK's CASOM requirements is not feasible, partly because of the different procurement approaches, which are being taken.

While the UK is planning to announce a clear winner by July 1997, the Pentagon is to award two 24-month pre-engineering and manufacturing development contracts before selecting a winner.

These do not, however, rule out the possibility of savings accruing for sub-systems commonality, should the two programmes be won, by the same company.

Hughes unveiled its full AirHawk team for the UK competition on 12 December. Smiths Industries, Thomson-Thorn Missile Electronics, Pilkington Optronics, Williams International and Hughes Microelectronics Europa are the main companies involved.

The AirHawk is a shortened derivative of the Tomahawk, cruise missile redesigned to ensure that the range falls just below the 480km (260nm) Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.

The US company is already supplying the submarine-launched version of the weapon to the Royal Navy.

Source: Flight International