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Saudi Deal Boosts Precision Bomb Production for Raytheon UK

Mar. 30, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By ANDREW CHUTER   |   Comments
Until now, Raytheon's Paveway IV precision-guided bomb was flown only on the UK's Tornado and Typhoon jets. (Raytheon)
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GLENROTHES, SCOTLAND — Raytheon UK’s precision-guided bomb business got the shot in the arm it had been hoping for when the US Congress finally approved the sale of the Paveway IV to Saudi Arabia in February.

Company executives revealed they had signed up their first export customer for the weapon during a briefing with reporters at their manufacturing and design facility here on March 25.

The company was showcasing Glenrothes’ expanding capabilities, including a new silicon carbide wafer foundry and the near completion of a 12-month program to move work previously done at its Harlow site in southern England north to Scotland.

The Paveway IV deal came at the right time for Raytheon UK, allowing work on the new order to ramp up just as production of a British Royal Air Force (RAF) order replenishing precision-guided bombs used in Libya comes to a close.

No value has been put on the Saudi deal, but sources said it was likely about £150 million (US $247 million).

With that deal under their belts, company executives are hoping for a further boost to the weapon’s sales prospects, with the British Defence Ministry poised to decide whether to proceed with a string of spiral developments aimed at significantly expanding Paveway IV’s capabilities.

The name of the new Paveway IV export customer was omitted from the announcement, but the Saudis have been widely touted as being in on the deal.

The contract was signed by the customer in December and approved by lawmakers on Capitol Hill two months later, said John Michel, the weapons business director at Raytheon UK.

The signing came after the US State Department relented in its three-year opposition to approving Saudi Arabia’s use of the predominantly British-designed weapon for the RAF.

Michel said first deliveries to the Saudis are due in about 18 months, with the order completed in around two years.

The Raytheon executive said the US export approval should help open the way for further Paveway IV orders and mentioned Oman as one potential customer.

Oman has ordered a squadron’s worth of Typhoon jets but deliveries are yet to get underway.

The munition is integrated on RAF Typhoon and Tornado jets. Both aircraft are flown by the Saudis.

The weapon is also destined for British F-35s, opening a potentially large market among joint strike fighter operators.

The Paveway IV has a 500-pound Mark 83 warhead and features dual-mode guidance involving INS/GPS and laser guidance.

T.J. Marsden, the Paveway IV’s chief engineer, said the British MoD had also expressed an interest in fitting the weapon to RAF Reaper drones.

Completion of the latest of two top-up orders for the RAF brings Paveway IV deliveries for the British to 4,000, executives said during the briefing.

Some of the items originally built for the long-anticipated Saudi order were diverted for use on the British deliveries, significantly shortening the time the RAF had to wait to replenish depleted stocks.

Raytheon executives are now awaiting news of whether the cash-strapped British are interested in enhancing Paveway IV capabilities as part of the Selective Precision Effects at Range Capability program, known as SPEAR Cap 1.

The Defence Board, the high-level committee responsible for strategic management at the MoD, is due to decide “imminently” on the fate of the Spear Cap 1 upgrades, Raytheon executives said.

The upgrades are believed to be near the top of the list of program investments being considered by the Defence Board, Marsden said.

Included in that potential upgrade is a new low collateral damage warhead, an enhanced hard target penetrator warhead and a digital seeker.

The company has also been using its own money to develop a GPS anti-jam capability, which can be retrofitted into existing weapons.

Marsden said the company had investigated the potential for scaling up the new penetrator warhead for larger members of the precision-guided munition family but would not proceed until the Spear Cap 1 work was further down the line. ■

Email: achuter@defensenews.com.

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