Matra-BAE lifted by Meteor order

This week’s £1bn MoD order for the Matra-BAe Dynamics (MBD) Meteor air-to-air missile will create and safeguard a total of around 1,200 jobs in the UK and 2,500 across Europe.

MBD’s plants at Stevenage, Bristol and Lostock will be major winners in terms off jobs, with 222 working on the order, as will Alenia Marconi Systems’ plants at Stanmore, Borehamwood, Portsmouth and Edinburgh, which employ around 200.

Meteor will arm the RAF’s Eurofighters from around 2008, but there will also be a £200m order for a US missile from Raytheon (which was in the running for the main missile order) to arm Eurofighter in the interim period.

The decision to adopt Meteor as the long-term option follows intense political lobbying at the highest level (see Industry Watch, right), with President Clinton telephoning Tony Blair three times to push the case for Raytheon’s offer.

Fabrice Bregier, MBD’s chief executive, said he had `never seen anything like this contest’ which had been `very hard fought’ against Raytheon.

Meteor will be what is called a beyond visual range air-to-air missile, a capability which has been dominated by the US defence giant Raytheon for over a generation. Raytheon had offered its Eraam Plus missile, a derivative of its Amraam missile which will equip the RAF’s early Eurofighters.

The exact numbers of Meteors and Amraams being ordered remains classified, said defence secretary Geoff Hoon. But the total requirement is split 80:20 in favour of Meteor. The contracts have yet to be formally placed.

US giant Boeing is also providing marketing support in the US and expertise on programme management. Hoon said this shows that the contract is `not an example of fortress Europe’. Boeing’s involvement holds out the promise of arming export versions of its F-15 and F-18 fighters with Meteor.

MBD is leading the project as prime contractor and, with its partners, is responsible for the Meteor’s system design. Other UK firms involved are Alenia Marconi Systems, in charge of the missile’s seeker, and BAE Systems subsidiary Royal Ordnance, responsible for the propulsion system, along with German company Bayern Chemie. Fairey Hydraulics will work on the weapon’s actuation system.

There is still a competition for Meteor’s warhead, where Royal Ordnance is in contention.

The risk-sharing partners for Meteor are MBD, Anglo-Italian firm Alenia Marconi Systems, Germany’s LFK, Spain’s Casa and Sweden’s Saab Dynamics.

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