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BAE bags Archer deal for Sweden, Norway

LONDON, March 30 (UPI) -- Defense giant BAE has clinched a $200 million contract to make 48 Archer self-propelled artillery gun systems for Swedish and Norwegian armed forces.

The deal was sealed days after the company lost a major contract to supply armored vehicles to the British army. Even so, the deal was part of a string of contracts that BAE Systems -- Europe's biggest military contractor -- was awarded by the British ministry of defense.

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The contract for the 155-millimeter self-propelled artillery guns systems is in line with a decision by the British military brass to develop a "a medium-caliber cannon by CTA International, an Anglo-French joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter Group, formerly known as Giat Industries, The Wall Street Journal reported.

BAE officials said the first operational systems would be delivered to both Sweden and Norway in October, with production continuing over the following two years. The deal marks a much-need lifeline for a $146 million development program launched by BAE in 2003.

"Archer is an important program for the armed forces of both countries and for BAE Systems' land business, as it is in a core area for us and will provide a springboard for future exports," Mike Smith, managing director of BAE Systems, Global Combat Systems Weapons said in a company statement.

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"We appreciate the effort and cooperation that the FMV and FLO -- the national procurement agencies -- have invested in ensuring the procurement of the most advanced and capable artillery system for the Swedish and Norwegian armies."

Archer is an advanced and automated artillery gun system designed for rapid deployment and high mobility in the most demanding operational scenarios, a company statement said.

Its digital fire control system and automatic gun-laying capability allows a response to calls for fire within 30 seconds while the ordnance is securely stowed and ready for rapid redeployment within 30 seconds of the completion of a fire mission, the statement added.

Earlier this week, the British company also secured a multimillion-dollar deal to produce a new generation of combat ships for the British navy as well as construction of the fifth Astute-class submarine.

Many countries, primarily in Europe, have moved to increasing invest in all aspects of their military. The upgrade program currently prevailing is the F-35, replacing outdated F-16 combat aircraft in many NATO countries.

BAE joined forces with Saab in 1995 to co-market the Gripen combat aircraft but the venture ended nine years later. BAE retained its majority stake in Saab, although half of that was sold this year a holding company of Sweden's influential Wallenburg family.

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