The Ministry of Defence has invited UK industry to develop concept studies for pilotless aircraft and air-launched cruise missiles which could replace the Tornado bomber, now being used in the war against Serbia.
The Tornado is to be replaced in 20 years’ time and the MoD is considering options for the `Future Offensive Air System’ (FOAS), which need not be a manned aircraft.
The MoD wants industry to consider conventionally-armed air-launched cruise missiles and `uninhabited air vehicles’ as possible solutions to meet some of the FOAS requirements.
The 18-month concept studies will define the work required to develop and demonstrate the technologies. They should lead to the framing of a `robust requirement’ around 2008.
UK companies have been invited to register their interest in the project by 19 May and an invitation to tender will go out in July.
The likely players include British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems and Anglo-French missile builder Matra BAe Dynamics.
Bidders for the pilotless aircraft work could include Logica, which has already undertaken studies into an unmanned combat air vehicle for FOAS.