Stewart Penney/LONDON

Raytheon and the US Government are offering the UK a 50:50 partnership on long-range missile technology development. The US company is attempting to win the UK's Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) competition and block European efforts to field a rival to derivatives of its widely used Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile .

The co-operation move comes as Raytheon and a rival, Matra BAe Dynamics European team, recently bolstered by the addition of France, submit best and final offers to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Raytheon's Extended Range Air-To-Air Missile Plus (ERAAMplus) bid merges the seeker and electronics upgrades of the US Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P³I) phase 3 with the dual pulse rocket motor required to meet the BVRAAM kinematic requirement. The proposals would also see the nations share work on AMRAAM/ERAAM developments.

Peter McKee, managing director of Raytheon Systems UK (RSL) says this solution, would be "unprecedented" and offers "real co-operation" between the nations, saving the MoD £450 million ($730 million) in the medium term.

The US forces have a multi-phase P3I development plan to 2015 covering all aspects of the missile, including the seeker, warhead, control system and propulsion. RSL head of marketing and defence systems Andy Head says continual development matches the UK's procurement strategy.

Head says a steering committee jointly chaired by the UK and US would be created while the AMRAAM Joint System Programme Office would be expanded with a UK deputy and personnel. The UK has already been given access to AMRAAM programme data so that it can evaluate Raytheon's proposal.

ERAAMplus could be delivered in 2007, meeting the MoD's BVRAAM in-service date. Industrial participation would be split 63% in Europe's favour for UK missiles and 50:50 on others.

In response, Matra BAe says only the ramjet-powered Meteor meets the emerging threat from similarly powered Russian missiles, which, according to BAe group managing director, Robin Southwell, could be in-service within four years. The Meteor team also includes Spain, Italy, and Germany.

BVRAAM will equip the UK Royal Air Force's Eurofighters, and will be offered on export aircraft. "Meteor is the last piece of the Eurofighter jigsaw, says Southwell. "Arming Eurofighter with Meteor will give the partner nations freedom to export the aircraft. Acquiring an American missile would give Congress a veto on exports." Head says the 50:50 UK/US relationship would allow the UK to veto exports of US aircraft equipped with the missiles.

The UK is to consider Raytheon's proposal as part of its on-going competition. It expects to make a decision by January.

Source: Flight International