Douglas Barrie/LONDON

THE UK IS TO OFFER the United Arab Emirates (UAE) new-build Panavia Tornado GR4s to meet its strike-aircraft requirement, with British Aerospace now completing a bid worth more than £1.5 billion ($2.27 billion).

The Gulf state is to be offered 24 Tornado GR4s, along with an initial lease of 12 Tornado GR1s drawn from Royal Air Force stock as an interim until the GR4s are manufactured.

The GR4, an upgraded variant of the GR1, would be built at BAe's Warton site in the north of England. Whitehall and industry sources confirm that a bid is being finalised.

The attempted sale is being complicated by political factors relating to continuing negotiations over a defence memorandum of understanding, and the UAE's aim to procure a long-range stand-off missile for the aircraft selected.

The UAE's original intention was to fund development of a derivative (rumoured to be called Centaur) of its Hakim missile family, developed by GEC-Marconi. A long-range variant known as the Pegasus is already being proposed to meet a similar RAF requirement.

The UAE is understood to have suggested that, if the UK were to purchase the Pegasus, then it would look favourably upon a GR4/ Centaur package.

GEC, however, has experienced problems with the release of some subsystems for the Pegasus missile, for which French suppliers were selected (Flight International, 29 November-6 December, 1995). France is also competing for the UAE's strike-aircraft and missile requirements, offering the Dassault Mirage 2000-5 and the Matra Apache. Matra is also proposing the Apache (with BAe) for the RAF's stand-off missile requirement. French suppliers which had been selected by GEC included SNPE (for the warhead), Microturbo (engine) and Sextant Avionique (navigation equipment).

In the meantime, Sextant Avionique is believed to have dropped out of the bid led by GEC, which has also selected UK back-up manufacturers should problems with the remaining French-sourced equipment persist.

Source: Flight International