10 September 2001
Contenders stand up for PGB

By Paul Beaver

UK defence procurement officials are now studying proposals for a new generation precision guided bomb (PGB) for the Royal Air Force bomber force. The requirement calls for all-weather, 24-hour strike capability, small miss distance, high reliability and a 20-year shelf life.

"We need to have a weapon system that redresses the problems found during the Kosovo air campaign two years ago when RAF aircrew could not bomb with laser-guided bombs because they could not see the targets through cloud," said a UK MoD spokesman.

Former armed forces minister John Spellar commented that in peace support operations the need was to reduce civilian casualties and damage, but equally during high intensity warfare, the RAF needed to have weapons that could destroy the enemy on a single pass with high reliability.

"The Royal Air Force has some special needs," said a senior RAF officer. "Our Harriers and, hopefully, JSF aircraft, will need to be able to take the PGB on operations and if necessary return to the deck on an aircraft carrier with the weapon underslung. There will be no lobbing unused bombs into the sea."

The combat aircraft to be equipped with PGB will be Tornado GR4, Harrier GR7/9, Typhoon and Jaguar GR3A, fulfilling Staff Requirement (Air) 1248. A number of companies are expected to respond to the ITT issued this month. These include European, African, Asian and US companies and teams.

Although the UK Defence Procurement Agency is unable to comment on the contenders, for commercial reasons, the Show Daily has learned that Alenia Marconi Systems/Boeing, Elbit/Rafael, SAGEM/Kentron and Raytheon have expressed interest.

Alenia Marconi Systems and Boeing are teamed to offer a UK version of JDAM, based on the Mk82 500lb free-fall bomb for the US forces, the development of which should be completed by December next year. JDAM already exists in Mk83, Mk84 and BLU-109 forms with heavier weight bombs. AMS/Boeing’s Martin Winstone said: "JDAM has the potential for early service entry."

Raytheon is thought to be ready to discuss an extra-enhanced version of the Paveway, previously known as Paveway IV, and the Israelis are suggesting Ophir, already ordered by a number of nations, including one in NATO.

DPA officials will be issuing the invitation to tender in the next three weeks and will be holding an industry day at Abbey Wood – the DPA HQ near Bristol – in September/October. Bids are due in February 2002