Thousands of UK jobs could be at risk if the US government tries to block a £1bn deal won by Matra BAe Dynamics to supply missiles to the United Arab Emirates.
The US could try to block part of the deal covering the supply of missiles, which, it says, breaches a major arms control convention.
The US is concerned about the supply of the Black Shaheen air-to-surface missile, which is based on the Apache, Scalp and Storm Shadow missiles bought by the British and French air forces.
The US claimed this week that Black Shaheen violates the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR). Category 1 of this agreement bars the export by its signatories of missiles with ranges of 300km or more and payloads of 500kg or more.
The British Government said that Black Shaheen will have a payload of under 500kg and will be a Category 2 weapon under MCTR.
The Ministry of Defence said: ‘We haven’t given an export licence to this. We’re still in talks with the Americans.
‘We’ve agreed in principle to the supply of components by the UK, which will be conditional on safeguards to ensure that the sale would be consistent with our responsibilities under the MCTR. Category 2 missiles can be exported at national discretion.’
The safeguards are meant to prevent the missile being modified for use with a weapon of mass destruction warhead, the MoD said.
‘We’ve agreed with the French government that we will ensure that these safeguards are implemented,’ The MoDadded.
Black Shaheen will be manufactured at Filton near Bristol and at MBD’s Stevenage plant in Hertfordshire.
The missile will be equipped with the Broach warhead, made by BAe’s Royal Ordnance subsidiary in Glascoed, Wales.