The US Navy's recently initiated search for a new helicopter- launched anti-ship missile to replace the Kongsberg AGM-119B Penguin Mk2 has drawn responses from at least four European and US manufacturers.

A request for information was issued by the USN earlier this year to arm its Sikorsky MH-60R maritime helicopters and MH-60S utility machines. The Penguin arms the earlier SH-60B, but will not be integrated with the new helicopters.

The USN requires a weapon with a "man-in-the-loop capability" and the option for autonomous operation with strong resistance to electronic jamming. The navy is looking for an essentially off-the-shelf missile, with an initial purchase limited to 300 rounds. It hopes to secure money in the 2004 defence budget to launch an evaluation, with procurement beginning the following year.

MBDA has made two bids, the Marte Mk2 and a proposed helicopter-launched Polyphem variant. Marte is a radar-guided fire-and-forget missile, while Polyphem uses a fibre-optic guidance system, which is near impossible to jam, but is still in the early stages of development.

Boeing, with BAE Systems, is looking at an anti-ship variant of the Brimstone anti-tank missile. Other interested companies include Israel Military Industries offering the Light Defender and Kongsberg with the NSM imaging-infrared guided successor to Penguin.

Source: Flight International