MINISTRY OF DEFENCE 173/96 December 16, 1996 MOD LOOKS TO THE FUTURE OF OFFENSIVE AIRCRAFT The Ministry of Defence is to launch a #35M study into options for a Future Offensive Air System. The system - which might not even be a conventional fast jet - would be intended to maintain the capability provided by the Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft. Options to be examined include not only; - variants of Eurofighter - new design or off-the-shelf combat aircraft but also; - unmanned (sometimes called 'uninhabited' air vehicles) - stand-off air-to-ground missiles launched at very long range from transport aircraft. A full range of future technologies will be considered, including not only fly-by-wire but also fly-by-light, stealth, virtual reality cockpits and integrated modular avionics. At the same time stringent design-to-cost disciplines will apply and a full range of collaborative options will be considered. The overall aim of the study will be to provide comprehensive data on feasibility, cost and operational effectiveness. A decision on which option, if any, to pursue would then be made. Industrial factors and affordability would, as always, be taken into account. In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Edward Leigh MP (Gainsborough and Hornscastle), Defence Procurement Minister, James Arbuthnot said: "The Ministry of Defence has decided to carry out a feasibility study into a future offensive air system. The Tornado GR1 (now being upgraded to GR4 standard) provides a long-range power projection and air interdiction capability. The study will examine a range of options for maintaining this capability beyond the planned withdrawal date of the GR4 in the second decade of the new millennium. "Study contracts to the value of #35M are expected to be placed in the new year. Options to be examined include variants of the Eurofighter and other new design and off-the-shelf combat aircraft; unmanned air vehicles; and stand-off air-to-ground missiles launched from transport aircraft. Collaborative options will be pursued." Notes to Editors A system to replace the Tornado GR4 (the upgraded version of the Tornado GR1) would come into service around 2015. Study contracts will be let with a number of contractors and with the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. The work will be managed by the MOD Procurement Executive in Bristol. The scope for collaboration within Europe and elsewhere will be fully explored. The study will benefit from a joint Anglo-French technology demonstration programme to permit computer modelling of weapons systems. This study is quite separate from the current four nation Eurofighter project, which is approaching its production phase and is intended to replace the Tornado F3 (air defence). (A future variant of Eurofighter will, however, be among the options looked at). # = pounds sterling