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Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 23:39 GMT

World: Europe

Billion dollar decision on Eurofighter missiles

The consortium says the wrong decision would leave the US dominant

A consortium of six European defence companies are pressing the UK Government to choose European rather than US-built missiles in a £1bn ($1.65bn) contract to equip its 232 Eurofighter combat aircraft.

"This is a must-win situation," said Alan Garwood, deputy chief executive of Matra BAe Dynamics, British Aerospace's Anglo-French missile division.

[ image: Four countries are already committed to Eurofighter purchases]
Four countries are already committed to Eurofighter purchases
"We must have a European weapon for a European aircraft, to get European exports and to defend the skies of Europe as well."

The Ministry of Defence is due to decide by early April whether to purchase US-made Raytheon missiles or the European-made Meteor mid-range air-to-air weapons for its fighters due for delivery in 2002.

Combat superiority

Germany, Spain and Italy which have firm orders for the Eurofighter - also known as the Typhoon - are thought likely to follow the UK's decision.

The consortium, which includes companies from the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Sweden, says the Meteor would enable the Eurofighter to easily achieve combat superiority over other systems on the market.

The group also argues that a decision in favour of Raytheon would severely limit the export potential of the European-built aircraft as the US Congress would hold control over the export of American missiles.

It says the decision is crucial to the future of the guided weapons business in Europe with high technology expertise and thousands of jobs at stake.

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