Short joins French on missile

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A BRITISH-FRENCH joint venture will develop and build new short-range missiles, expected to be a growth area during the coming decade, writes Christopher Bellamy.

The joint venture between Short Brothers of Belfast and Paris-based Thomson-CSF will combine Short's experience in the close-range air defence missile field with Thomson-CSF's electronics expertise. The venture will have a a turnover of about pounds 150m.

A memorandum of understanding between Short and Thomson was signed in 1991. But the formal joint venture still needs authorisation from the French government, the British Ministry of Defence and the European Community.

The combined Franco-British company should be better able to compete with other short-range missile manufacturers, such as Matra, which builds the Mistral, and General Dynamics of the US, which builds the Stinger.

Short makes the Starburst and Starstreak missiles. Starburst was carried by British troops in the Gulf war. The more advanced Starstreak is in production but has not yet entered service. The UK component of the joint venture will be called Shorts Missile Systems.

Short Brothers will retain responsibility for its other defence business, armoured cars and simulators.