A particularly strong area of the UK defence electronics sector is focused on developing precision-guided weapons for use by all three armed services. The UK is home to one arm of one of the world's leading missile concerns, MBDA, which was created by amalgamating the French, Italian and UK guided-weapon industries. The company's highest profile air-launched weapons project - to deliver the Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missile to six European nations - is being managed by the UK Defence Procurement Agency and led by MBDA UK.

The UK's Raytheon Systems (RSL) last year built on its success in supplying Paveway II/III laser-guided and Enhanced Paveway II/III GPS- and laser-guided bombs and guidance kits to the Royal Air Force by securing the service's next generation Precision Guided Bomb (PGB) contract. The RAF dropped more than 600 Paveway-series bombs during Operation Telic in Iraq last year, representing over 75% of the air-launched weapons used by the service.

RSL is to deliver dual-mode GPS-aided INS and optional laser-guided Paveway IV 227kg (500lb) bombs to meet the PGB requirement. Work to produce the weapon will take place at its plant in Glenrothes, Scotland, which already produces key electronics and guidance systems for Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Representing a key advance for the UK's all-weather targeting capabilities, the PGB design can also be equipped with an electro-optical sensor and datalink to operate within a network-enabled targeting environment, says RSL. The UK holds design authority on the new weapon, and will lead efforts to sell it on the export market.

The Paveway IV will use the Thales Missile Electronics multi-event hard target fuze (MEHTF), offering the user a selectable warhead effect for use against a broad target set. Jointly developed with Alliant Techsystems of the USA, the MEHTF is also being considered to meet weapons requirements for the US armed forces.

Thales also has a further hand in the UK guided-weapons sector following its acquisition of Northern Ireland-based Shorts Missile Systems, which developed the Starstreak ground- and aircraft-launched air defence missile.

Source: Flight International