Just before the expiration of a US offer dated July, Hungarian MoD acquisition chief Ferenc Bese signed a Letter of Acceptence (LoA) last week on the purchase of forty (40) AIM-120C-5 missiles and associated equipment, valued at 25,389,904 USD.
The weapons are scheduled to be shipped between 2006 and 2007 to equip the new JAS-39 EBS-HU Gripen aircraft of the Hungarian Air Force which will take the country's Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) task from January 2009.
The contract identifies successful airframe/missile integration certification as a condition which must be met before the missiles will be transported to the country.
Under a separate deal between AMRAAM manufacturer Raytheon Corporation and Gripen manufacturer SAAB/BAE, this work is currently underway in Sweden, as the Swedish Materiel Administration (FMV) has signed for two AIM-120C-5 missiles in March. As the Gripen is currently certified only for the earlier AIM-120B variant, more integration work -- especially software -- is required.
The AMRAAM offer was part of a larger package comprising stocked US AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, newly manufactured GBU-10, 16, 12 laser guidance kits for Mk84, 83, 82 bombs and AGM-65H/K air-to-ground missiles. However, these were all rejected as "too expensive".
To fulfill the need for short range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground weapons, the Hungarian MoD is going to issue an open tender early next year. According to Nandor Hollosi, chief advisor to the defence minister, the winners will be announced during the spring.
Sources close to the Air Force suggest that offers from Germany on stocked AIM-9JULI, and from Sweden on stocked AIM-9L missiles are the likely front runners; however, such deals require US approval beforehand.
These budget-driven considerations are seen with concern by the small Hungarian fighter community which prefers Bodenseewerk Geratetechnik/Saab Dynamics IRIS-T High-Off-Boresight (HOBS) missiles cued by Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS). They see the Sidewinder as a step back from their current R-73E (AA-11)/HMS combination employed on their current mount, the MiG-29.
However, IRIS-T is considered too expensive by the Hungarian MoD, while its integration on the Gripen airframe has not been completed by the Swedish Air Force, which is a likely future customer for that missile.