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14 Mar 02. The U.K. MoD has launched a comprehensive programme to develop the UK’s Ground Based Air Defence capability to continue ton match the emerging air threat.

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Bach said:

“Ground Based Air Defence is an essential component of our force protection package. It provides defence from a range of threats, from cruise missiles through to unmanned aerial vehicles and attack helicopters. But the Strategic Defence Review showed that the operational context in which it will be used is changing. Future operations will be high tempo, more complex, and invariably joint or multi-national. This makes high situational awareness and accurate target identification vital.”

An off-the shelf Air Defence Command and Control System will be purchased to enhance the existing Rapier Field Standard C and High Velocity Missile (HVM) Systems. Six companies are being invited to tender for the contract.

In parallel with this contract, the manufacturers of both Rapier and HVM will be asked to consider a series of targeted updates to their weapon system performance to meet the emerging threat expected to develop over the next 10 to 20 years.

In the second stage, the UK is considering collaboration with NATO allies to explore the technologies required for future GBAD weapons. Lord Bach added:

“This programme is a fine example of Smart Acquisition in action. Use of off-the-shelf technology at the start, and introducing further improvements in stages, means that the UK’s joint GBAD force gets improved capability earlier, and the system is able to grow to meet the emerging threat. Carrying our plans forward in this way also delivers savings of some £450m for the taxpayer.”

The Invitation to Tender for the Air Defence Command and Control System is being issued to 6 companies: AMS of Camberley Surrey; EADS Defence Systems and Electronics (UK) Ltd of Milton Keynes; Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control of Orlando USA; Oerlikon-Contraves AG of Zurich Switzerland; Thales Defence Ltd of Crawley, Surrey; and Raytheon Systems Ltd of Harlow, Essex. Down selection to two contractors to undertake a two year competitive Assessment Phase is planned for December this year.

Invitations to Tender will also be issued to the makers of the Rapier and High Velocity Missile, MBDA of Stevenage, Hertfordshire and Thales Air Defence Ltd of Belfast, Northern Ireland, to assess updates to the Weapon Systems’ performance. Contracts for this work are planned to be let in parallel with the Air Defence Command and Control contracts in December.

The UK’s latest Ground Based Air Defence Systems Rapier FSC (Short Range) and Self Propelled (SP) HVM (Very Short Range) entered service in 1996 and 1997, followed by the Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) HVM version in 2000. Follow on orders have been placed for both Rapier and HVM missiles. A contract for a Thermal Sighting System (TSS) for SP HVM was placed in February 2001, and in December 2000 and June 2001 Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) systems were ordered for both Rapier and HVM respectively.

Comment: This SMART strategy by the MoD makes good sense seeing the systems that are available from the bidders, these include SAMOC from EADS, supplied to the German Army, from Thales as supplied to the French Army, the AMS CATHRINE system supplied to the Italian Army amongst others. The savings of £450m will be welcomed to shore up the creaking defence budget. Whether the Raytheon-Thales Air Defence JV will resolve its differences over the UK market, which still remains outside the JV, to bid this will become apparent in the near future.

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