IN AN ALMOST unprecedented move, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) may force missile manufacturer Shorts to compete for follow-on orders of its much-delayed Starstreak very-short-range air-defence system.

Belfast-based Shorts is now completing the first tranche of deliveries to the MoD, with the programme running almost five years late. Technical problems with the missile and its carriage vehicle have led to the delays.

The MoD says that it has not ruled out any options, with a competition for production of two further batches of Starstreak a distinct possibility. Build-to-print has been a feature of US missile contests for many years.

Shorts admits that it is in discussions with the MoD, over future production contracts. It would strongly object to the MoD holding a competition for the programme.

The last time the MoD attempted to put part of a programme to competition was on the Royal Air Force's Panavia Tornado GR.1/GR.4 mid-life upgrade. Although it awarded the initial contract to British Aerospace, it wanted to hold a competition for upgrading later batches of aircraft. The resulting wrangle between BAe and the MoD eventually led the Ministry to abandon plans for a competition.

Source: Flight International