Hundreds of British defence jobs could be created following last week’s submission of bids worth £200m to the Ministry of Defence.
The contracts are to develop the Tracer armoured reconnaissance vehicle and its US equivalent for the British and US armies.
The full development and production programme will be worth as much as £3bn to the two countries’ defence industries. Current activity is for project definition work and for building advanced technology demonstrators.
This would be worth around £100m each to the two competing groups: Sika, a joint venture company of British Aerospace and Lockheed Martin; and Lancer, which groups prime contractor GEC-Marconi with GKN Defence and US companies United Defense and Raytheon Texas Instruments.
A Sika spokesman said last week that its Tracer submission will be a low-signature vehicle able to avoid an enemy while gathering information up to 75 miles ahead of the nearest friendly forces.
Sika stressed that it is not a conventional joint venture and that it is an independent company in its own right.
The bids will be subject to joint UK-US evaluation. The MoD said it hopes to award contracts in early 1999 for the project definition work, which will last until the last few months of 2002.
Lockheed Martin and BAe believe the British Army wants around 350 Tracers starting from the year 2007, but the MoD would not confirm that number or even whether an armoured vehicle will be used to gather that kind of reconnaissance.
‘After the project definition studies, decisions will be taken as to the appropriate mix of armoured reconnaissance vehicles, unmanned air vehicles and possibly land vehicles,’ the MoD said this week.
In July, the MoD said that it was conducting studies into the use of unmanned air vehicles for battlefield reconnaissance. It was also in discussions with the US about possible collaboration on this work.