Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

THE US GOVERNMENT has agreed to transfer to the UK development of an advanced ramjet for its future medium-range air-to-air missile programme, but how much of this work would be performed in Europe remains under debate.

Hughes plans to offer an extended-range derivative of the AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM), powered by a variable-flow ducted rocket (VFDR), to meet UK Ministry of Defence Staff Requirement (Air) 1239, for which an invitation to tender is expected in late October.

An Atlantic Research (ARC)/Alliant Techsystems team has been working on the VFDR power plant for the AIM-120 for ten years, but the USA has no current plans to develop an extended-range AMRAAM.

The USA is instead prepared to transfer the VFDR programme to Europe, says Hughes, where development would be completed.

ARC says that the US Government has not yet decided how much VFDR development work would be transferred to Europe, and how much would remain in the USA. The team is supporting the Hughes bid and, separately, has responded to a British Aerospace request for information (RFI) on a ramjet power plant for its proposed S225X missile.

ARC says that the team has permission to transfer the VFDR project to the UK and has had discussions with Royal Ordnance, a BAe subsidiary and the only UK company with the necessary capability following Rolls-Royce's decision to stop work on ramjets.

The company says that Germany's Bayern Chemie and Volvo of Sweden have also responded to the UK company's RFI. Bayern Chemie has previously collaborated with ARC on ramjet development.

Hughes would like to see all of the VFDR development work performed in Europe, possibly by a consortium of UK, German and Swedish companies, with the US company supplying guidance and warhead sections. The UK requirement is for a longer-range weapon, to arm the Eurofighter EF2000.

In addition to BAe, with the proposed S225X, other contenders for SR(A) 1239 include Hughes, Matra and Daimler-Benz Aerospace with Bayern Chemie.

Source: Flight International