A contract was signed on Tuesday for the main missile weapon system on the troubled £8bn pan-European Horizon frigate. But a decision on the project’s management structure will not be made for at least another four weeks.
The missile contract with multinational consortium Eurosam was agreed in Rome for development and production of its main weapon, the principal anti-air missile system (Paams).
Meanwhile, at a meeting between Defence Secretary George Robertson and his French and Italian counterparts in Paris on Monday, it was agreed that further work was needed on Horizon’s industrial arrangements. The ministers agreed to meet in London in four week’s time, the MoD said.
The international joint venture company running Horizon will present ministers with arrangements which should involve what the MoD calls ‘a robust management structure’. This is understood to be code for a stronger British management role.
The MoD admitted the London meeting ‘may not be exactly four weeks’ away. A spokesman said: ‘We agreed that industry needs to do more work on it.’
Observers believe Marconi Electronic Systems, the UK firm in the joint venture, has long been seeking a leading role in the project.
The MoD has threatened that the UK might adopt a ‘national solution’ if the ‘robust management structure’ is not adopted. But any British version of the frigate would still be armed with the Paams missile.