PARIS — Raytheon Missile Systems is open to developing a powered version of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDBII) to meet a British requirement for a mini-cruise missile it is looking to purchase for its fleet of F-35 combat jets, according to Taylor Lawrence, president of the company's missile systems business.##BR##
"We are just beginning to have those kind of discussions [internally], clearly we would be willing to look at that if the UK wanted to compare it [with the MBDA Spear missile]," Lawrence told Defense News at the Paris Air Show opening Monday.
A variant of the company's miniature air launched decoy (MALD) could be another option, he said.
The UK arm of rival missile maker MBDA is offering a powered solution to meet British operational requirements while the SDBII is a winged bomb.
The US executive said that so far there had been were no formal discussions with the British over a possible Raytheon-powered weapon.
The British are partially through the assessment phase of a program aimed at delivering a medium-range strike weapon by the early 2020s for the F-35 and possibly later the Typhoon combat jets.
MBDA has been conducting the assessment phase of the program, known as the Selective Precision Effects at Range Capability 3, as part of a complex weapons agreement with the British government that normally excludes competition from overseas rivals for missile programs in order to preserve skills and retain operational sovereignty.
In the last 12 months, though, the British appear to have softened their attitude and recently said they would consider Raytheon's capabilities before making a decision on how to proceed which one to go ahead with in 2018 for Spear Cap 3.
MBDA is proposing to develop a powered weapon known as Spear with a range in excess of 70 kilometers compared with the roughly 74 kilometers 40 nautical miles or so of the current SDBII.
"Rather than develop a brand-new missile from scratch, adding powered flight to a variant of SDBII is one of the things we could look at. Things like a variant of MALD with a seeker would also have the range ... there are a lot of things we could look at but we want to make sure all of those things are offered to the UK at the appropriate time depending on how they want to proceed with the development," he said.
"There are a number of things we could do for them, we just want an opportunity to compete," he said.
The cash-strapped British would have to trade capability for lower cost and maturity to buy the US weapon as it now stands.
"I am pleased to say they [the UK Ministry of Defence] have at least said there will be some consideration in trades for the capability.We are making sure they can make the most well-informed decision. We have given them all the data and the US government has participated in giving them capability. At the end of the day we have a mature capability going into production as a result of the first low-rate initial production contract just awarded by the US Air Force," Lawrence said.
"At the moment we don't have a specific customer requirement to drive us in the direction of a powered SDBII but if the UK were serious about what they needed and maybe even funded it we could certainly get there by 2018," said Lawrence.
Raytheon secured its first low-rate initial production deal from the US Air Force for SDBII earlier in June.
Lawrence said Raytheon would consider opening the SDBII's global supply base to UK manufacturing if the MoD decides to compete