The UK and French defence ministries are contemplating releasing a joint request for information (RFI) during the middle of this year, covering the development of an improved-accuracy family of bombs for their respective air forces.

The move towards a joint RFI is being driven by the desire to address the political clamour for increased joint procurement within a European framework.

The UK is looking at providing an improved-delivery capability to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy under Staff Target (Air/Sea) 1248, with the French air force also interested in acquiring bombs capable of precision attack.

The UK's Defence Research Agency has completed a brief study of options to provide the RAF and RN with increased-accuracy 450kg and 225kg bombs, respectively. The aim is to provide them with a general-purpose bomb capable of providing an accuracy of a 13m circular-error probable.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is working towards having the Staff Target endorsed by the end of this year, allowing the release of a request for proposals.

The MoD is likely to receive a wide variety of options to address the requirement, ranging from acquiring upgrade kits for some of its present bomb stock to purchasing new weapons .

The most likely solution for improved accuracy will to be to use a mix of an inertial-navigation and a global-positioning system.

Likely bidders include Matra BAe Dynamics, GEC-Marconi, Hunting, Texas Instruments and McDonnell Douglas. Israeli and South African manufacturers may also make offers.

The MoD's instinct may be to opt for an upgrade kit, rather than a new weapon, because it will attract less UK Treasury attention. In the longer term, it has a requirement for an autonomously guided bomb, encapsulated in ST(A)1243.

It remains uncertain whether France and the UK will be able to progress beyond a joint RFI, given the likely divergence in the countries' requirements.

Source: Flight International