Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) is intended to be the principle air-to-air weapon system for Eurofighter. The combination of Eurofighter and a missile whose range and no escape zone exceeds any other current or projected system over the next decade will ensure the enhanced capability of the RAF in any future conflict. BVRAAM is designed to provide performance, particularly kinematic performance, several times that of existing Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (MRAAMs). The increased performance will enable pilots to fully exploit the capabilities of their new aircraft and dominate long range air defence engagements in a manner that no lesser a solution can achieve. There is no active radar guided air -to-air missile in service with the Royal Air Force. Sky Flash is a semi-active missile and requires the launch aircraft to illuminate the target throughout the time of flight of the missile, which makes it vulnerable to counter attack. Although Eurofighter will enter service with an AMRAAM capability, BVRAAM will give Eurofighter the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously, independent of parent aircraft manoeuvre, at greater range than AMRAAM and in all weathers day or night. The UKís Eurofighter partners (Germany, Italy and Spain) and Sweden have an interest in procuring a missile meeting these requirements and have been fully involved in the tender assessment, with representatives collocated at Abbey Wood.
A single fighter, equipped with an operational load of BVRAAM missiles, has the potential to destroy even the most maneuvrable of fighters well before they reach combat range, and simultaneously engage bombers at long range. Targets are prioritised prior to launch, and the missiles are fired towards the predicted interception points. Meanwhile target information can be updated, via the data-link, throughout the initial flight - either from the launch aircraft or from a third party such as AWACs. Tactical information on the missile can also be received by the controlling aircraft. At the appropriate time, BVRAAMís active radar seeker autonomously searches for and locks onto the target. The missile is now fully autonomous, making its own decisions to home in on the target, despite any evasive manoeuvres, or decoys or sophisticated electronic countermeasures.The BVRAAM Invitation to Tender (ITT) was issued in 1995. Bids were received from two consortia: one led by BAe (now Matra BAe Dynamics Ltd (MBD)), offering a new system called Meteor and one led by Hughes UK Ltd (now Raytheon Systems Ltd (RSL)), offering a development of the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) called Future Medium Range Air to Air Missile (FMRAAM). The Meteor prime contractor is MBD with partners Alenia, CASA, DASA-LFK, GEC Marconi and SAAB. The FMRAAM prime contractor is RSL with Raytheon Missile Systems, Aerospatiale, RO, Fokker and Thomson Thorn.
Raytheon offered FMRAAM (Future Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) for the full BVRAAM requirement. Moreover, at the MoD's request for a lower cost and lower risk staged-approach to BVRAAM, Raytheon have offered ERAAM (Extended Range Air-to-Air Missile) which provides 80% of the performance of BVRAAM at 50% of the price. Raytheon has also offered an upgrade path for the AMRAAMs that the MoD will purchase to initially arm Eurofighter, called AMRAAM B+.
Meteor had been bid by Matra BAe Dynamics [MBD] to meet the UK MoDís Staff Requirement 1239, for a Beyond Visual Range Air-To-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system. Meteor is being offered as a pan-European solution for the EF-2000 and Gripen. The Meteor team comprises Matra BAe Dynamics as the Missile Prime Contractor, with Marconi Electronic Systems taking responsibility in the guidance systems as the Seeker Prime Contractor. The active radar seeker is the brains of the missile, and is the result of Dynamics Divisionís experience in high technology guidance systems. Other industrial partners are Alenia, Marconiís Italian joint-venture partner, DASA LFK of Germany, SAAB of Sweden and CASA from Spain, making it a truly European project. As such, by sharing development and aircraft integration costs Meteor provides a reliable and cost effective solution to Europeís requirements for BVRAAM and MRAAM (Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles). There have been a number of changes to the Meteor configuration, the most obvious being the addition of mid-mounted wings. Meteor will be fitted with a solid propellant variable flow ducted ramjet which the Meteor partners see as essential in delivering the performance characteristics necessary to meet the threat.
The initial tender assessment identified significant risks within both proposals that precluded down selection and award of a Development and Production Contract. A 12-month Project Definition and Risk Reduction phase was introduced with each bidder, at a total cost of £10 million, and contracts were placed in July 1997. Revised proposals were received in May 1998 and assessment is underway with contract award scheduled for late 1999.
In May 1998 Secretary of Defense, William Cohen gave assurances to British Defence Secretary, George Robertson that the US would ensure a fair international competitive environment for future fighter competitions and that the US would allow the marketing of AMRAAM-based BVRAAMs on Eurofighter to any nation approved for AMRAAM.
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