PARIS — Talks on a possible timetable for Anglo-French cooperation on a new helicopter-borne anti-ship missile will be on the agenda when French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian meets his British counterpart later this week, the French minister said Oct. 23.
“Everyone has priorities, we have priorities that are significantly different in the missile domain, so we’re going to talk to Phil Hammond on the possibility or not of aligning our timetables,” Le Drian told journalists at the Euronaval trade show, which opened Oct. 22.
“It’s a question of timetables not one of the contents, or interest,” he said.
Le Drian was answering a question on whether he would be discussing the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) or FASGW (H) missile when he met Hammond on Oct. 26. The two ministers are due to meet at the Anglo-French Corsican Lion naval exercise, business daily Les Echos reported.
French delay on committing to a launch with Britain on the estimated 400 million euro ($522 million) development of the weapon has caused concern at missile maker MBDA, whose executives see the joint development as crucial for the launch of the One MBDA internal reorganization. This effort will include a rationalization of competences around centers of excellence in Britain and France.
Anti-mine warfare, missiles and UAVs are to be discussed when the ministers meet, Le Drian said.
Britain, France and Germany also are discussing an intermediate, medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV, Le Drian said.
Procurement chief Laurent Collet-Billon of the Direction Générale de l’Armement recently said in testimony to the parliamentary defense committee that France was in informal talks with General Atomics on acquiring a MALE UAV.
French officials are looking at the possibility of separating the flying operations and the mission itself, to equip the aircraft with “European sensors or armaments,” Collet-Billon told the committee. That would allow Paris to operate the U.S.-built UAVs independent of potential restrictions from Washington.
On the outlook for military exports, Collet-Billon said at the Euronaval show that new orders in 2012 would be a “minimum 5 billion euros.” That compares with 6.5 billion euros in 2011.