Douglas Barrie/LONDON

SENIOR US AND UK defence officials have signed a statement of intent covering UK involvement in the Pentagon's Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) future combat-aircraft programme.

The agreement, signed at the beginning of April, clears the way for negotiating a full memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the UK's involvement in the JAST programme. The aim is to conclude this by the end of 1995.

UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Chief of Defence Procurement, Malcolm McIntosh, this month met his US counterpart from the Pentagon's Acquisition Office to discuss the programme.

A previous MoU between the two nations covering the Advance Research Projects Agency Advanced Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) programme became redundant when it was merged with the JAST programme at the behest of the US Congress.

The MoD is looking to the JAST/ASTOVL programme as a potential replacement for the Royal Navy's British Aerospace Sea Harrier F/A2 and the Royal Air Force's Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft.

Senior defence officials are confident that an ASTOVL variant of the JAST would easily fulfil the F/A2 requirement. They are less certain as to whether a conventional variant of the JAST will fully meet Staff Target (Air) 425 for a deep-strike penetrator aircraft to replace the Tornado.

An MoU between the countries will establish a framework for common airframe and major subsystems development on the JAST programme, says the UK MoD.

At an industrial level, BAe is already teamed with McDonnell Douglas in bidding for JAST work, while Rolls-Royce is involved in several engine consortia.

In keeping with concerns as to whether JAST will meet SR(A) 425 the MoD is also not ruling out possible European collaboration.

Anglo-French industrial collaboration to meet both countries' needs for a Future Offensive Aircraft has already begun. The French air force will eventually need a replacement for its Dassault Mirage 2000Ns and 2000Ds.

Source: Flight International