4 Jun 02. The future of the Meteor BVRAAM missile project is (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.4 ISSUE 18 May 2nd 2002) under further threat because of German delays in signing the final contract two years after committing to the project.
Postponements to the Meteor air-to-air missile programme have prompted fears among Berlin’s European partners that financial pressures on the defence budget and party political differences ahead of September’s general elections could prevent parliamentary approval for Germany’s contribution to the six-nation programme.
That would further embarrass the German government only weeks after it resolved a political dispute threatening to undermine the A400M European military transport aircraft project.
Concern about delays to Meteor have been most acute in Britain. The UK government bowed to lobbying from Germany, France and Italy two years ago to select the missile as the key weapon for the Eurofighter aircraft, snubbing Washington’s pressure for a US alternative.
The overall size of the Meteor contract is not yet finalised but the UK’s share, the single largest, is worth £1bn ($1.5bn). Germany, the second largest participant, is responsible for 21 per cent of development costs.
Securing the contract will secure 2,500 jobs around Europe.
“This project will not succeed without Germany,” Sir Robert Walmsley, the UK’s chief of defence procurement, who is leading the negotiations with MBDA, the pan-European missile company, told a parliamentary committee late last month.
Lord Bach, the UK minister for defence procurement told the same committee: “The next couple of months are absolutely critical and we are putting what pressure we can on the German government to get this [memorandum of understanding] signed and Meteor on the road.”
German defence ministry officials said they had only last week received the essential additional information Berlin had requested before seeking parliamentary approval.
In a statement, the ministry blamed the MDBA consortium for delays.
It said: “The German defence ministry regrets the late submission of the necessary contractual documents by industry, but will undertake its examination as quickly as possible to enable the matter to be discussed in the budgetary committee soon.”