The bid battle for a £900m Ministry of Defence contract for air-to-air missiles for the Eurofighter plane started in earnest last week with rival teams placing the accent on the UK content of their bids.
The Anglo-French missile firm Matra BAe Dynamics is leading a team offering Meteor, based on Matra’s Mica missile. Partners include Italy’s Alenia, Spain’s Casa, Germany’s LFK, Sweden’s Saab Dynamics and Britain’s GEC-Marconi.
The rival bidder is Raytheon Systems, the UK manufacturing arm of the US defence giant. Its consortium is offering FMRAAM, a missile based on the widely used Amraam.
The team includes Shorts Missile Systems in Belfast, where final assembly would take place, plus Thomson Thorn Missile Electronics in Basingstoke, Germany’s Diehl, France’s Aerospatiale, Holland’s Fokker Special Products, and Atlantic Research in the US.
Raytheon claims 80% of its missile would be developed and produced in Europe and 50 60% in the UK, with much work done at its Glenrothes factory in Fife, where 650 people already build Amraam control sections.
The Meteor team stressed that its members comprise the core firms of a future pan-European defence company and said Europe’s future air weapons capability was dependent on the bid.
Raytheon claimed the Meteor team exaggerated the UK content of its missile and said FMRAAM was based on a combat-proven weapon which Britain already uses.
The main technical difference between the missiles is that Meteor would use a solid-propellant ramjet, whereas FMRAAM would have a liquid-fuelled ramjet.
Both teams put in their original bids for what the RAF called the ‘beyond visual range air-to-air missile’ (BVRAAM) in 1996, but the MoD decided instead to let small, one-year ‘risk reduction’ contracts in July 1997.
The MoD’s approvals process takes place between October and December this year, with the Equipment Approvals Committee deciding by February 1999.