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PROBLEMS STILL PLAGUE METEOR?

09 May 05. Der Spiegel reported that things are once again turbulent in Europe’s most expensive armament programme, the construction of the Eurofighter aircraft. Partner countries Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain are now quarrelling about the bombs, missiles and cruise missiles with which the fighter jets are to be equipped – and about who will have to pay for potential additional costs. Furthermore, there are considerable problems with the development of the Meteor missile, which is planned as the “main weapon” and is to fight enemy aircraft at a distance of about 10 km. In order to avoid dependence on US weapons, in 2002 the Europeans agreed to develop their own missile. It was supposed to be available as of 2012. However, the technical problems seem to be so great that the armament department of the German Defence Ministry has internally suggested keeping the purchase of a US missile open as a “fall-back position”. The bunker-piercing cruise missile Taurus, with which the German Eurofighter planes are to be equipped, is also being delayed more and more. Since the tests, which were originally intended as the final testing of combat-ready missiles, failed last year despite repeated postponement, EADS, which is also involved in Meteor, must now do additional work. The next tests can now be carried out in September at the earliest. Berlin plans to buy a total of 180 Eurofighter planes, which will cost about 15bn euros – without weapons.

We have discussed the Meteor programme and its U.S. AMRAAM equivalent on many occasions in BATTLESPACE. On 26th April 2002 we reported that a Eurofighter had carried out its first fully guided firing of a Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) on the 9th April. The firing was undertaken at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Benbecula range off the coast of Scotland at an unmanned Mirach target drone.

The AMRAAM was fired in a nose aspect, lookdown launch geometry. Although configured with a telemetry package rather than a warhead, the missile destroyed the target by scoring a direct hit. (AMRAAM does not normally need to hit its target to destroy it, only pass and detonate within the prescribed kill zone). More detailed weapons system performance data will be available after telemetry data analysis.

This launch is the first in a series of guided tests that will be conducted to fully certify AMRAAM for operational deployment on Eurofighter.

For this particular trial the aircraft, Eurofighter DA4, was flown by BAE Systems test pilot Craig Penrice, who commented: “The radar acquired the target at a very long range and continued to track it all the way through until after the missile actually destroyed the target. It was very exhilarating to be involved in such an large team effort which brought about a significant achievement.”

Raytheon’s AMRAAM was selected by the UK MoD in 2000 to equip the Eurofighter as its primary air defence weapon system when it comes into service in 2004. Four missiles can be accommodated in special recesses under the aircraft’s fuselage and others on pylons under the wing giving Eurofighter formidable firepower.

Whilst the AMRAAM integration on Eurofighter Typhoon continues apace, news of the European Meteor rocket-ramjet air-to-air missile solution chosen to equip the Typhoon fleets of the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, Sweden’s Gripens and France’s Rafales, following a lengthy battle between Raytheon and MBDA, remains cloudy. With little news emanating from MBDA, news from Germany suggests that due to a continuing tight defence budget, the Bundestag is reported to be unlikely to approve in German participation ion the Meteor programme before the September 22nd elections, this will delay funding until 2003. The Germans plan to procure 1488 Meteors worth €1.3bn ($1.14bn) by 2012. The German development share is €277m ($243.9m). The A400M problems have not helped the current budget crisis and have reportedly precipitat

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