Paul Lewis/WASHINGTON DC
The US Government is likely to be forced shortly to review its ban on the sale of actively guided beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles to South America as French, Israeli, Russian and Taiwanese suppliers line up to fill emerging requirements in Chile, Brazil and Peru.
A US State Department official has stated that Washington "will consider exports" of Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) to the region once it has proof that such a capability has already been fielded. Washington's policy, in the meantime, is not to "add tension or create an arms race by being the first to introduce such a capability into the region".
A review is only a matter of time, suggest industry sources, with Peru slated to be the first South American air force to field a BVR capability with the expected delivery next year of a small number - probably around 30 - of Vympel R-77/AA-12 Adder missiles. The radar-guided missiles will arm Peru's MAPO MiG-29A Fulcrums. The bulk of these aircraft were acquired secondhand from Belarus, and the Russians refused to support the aircraft. A subsequent deal included the purchase of three aircraft from Russia and upgrades to their aircraft to give them a BVR capability.
This, in turn, is fuelling requirements for similar capabilities from the Brazilian and Chilean air arms. The release of the AMRAAM is understood to be a major consideration in the latter's planned selection of a fighter, with local reports indicating that the air force is leaning toward a Dassault Mirage 2000-5 MkII order. The French deal would include the supply of active-guided Matra BAe Dynamics Mica missiles.
Manufacturers submitted fresh bids to Chile on 29 November, based on a reduced purchase of just six fighters, after the government again slashed available funding in half, to $300 million. Also competing is Saab/BAE Systems, offering the Gripen, and Lockheed Martin proposing Block 52 F-16C/Ds armed with short-range Rafael Python 4 air-to-air missiles. An alternative offer of second hand F-16A/Bs and Boeing F/A-18A/Bs is also on the table (Flight International, 8-14 December).
Brazil has also included provision for an add-on BVR capability as part of its planned Northrop F-5BR upgrade. In the absence of the AMRAAM, it is looking at Rafael's proposed active-guided Derby missile, equipped with datalink for mid-course guidance updates, active version of Mica and Taiwan's Chung Shan Institute Sky Sword 2 missile.
Source: Flight International