The UK Ministry of Defence has merged a series of requirements for aerial targets into a single programme to be supplied under an industry financed package.

Worth around £100 million ($150 million) over 10 years, the Combined Aerial Target Service (CATS) programme aims to provide a supersonic target for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, a subsonic test and evaluation target for the Army, RN and RAF, and a target for the RAF's next generation of air-to-air missiles.

Under a public/private partnership contract, companies will offer a service to meet the armed forces' needs and will recommend the targets to be used, whereas previously the MoD would have run a competition to select a target. The supersonic target requirement is similar to the recently concluded US Navy competition, won by an Orbital Sciences/Raytheon team offering surplus-SRAM missiles fitted with Terrier boosters.

A source at the UK Defence Procurement Agency says likely bidders include Boeing, which offered the USN the MA-31, based on the Russian-built Zvezda Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton) anti-radiation missile; the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; Lockheed Martin; Meggitt; Serco and Vosper Thornycroft.

Companies are likely to form consortia ahead of the expected selection of six bidders by the end of September, with this narrowing down to four bidders next year.

The in-service date for CATS is targeted at 2004-5.

Source: Flight International