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MBDA Focusing on Contracted U.K. Weapons

Mar. 21, 2013 - 02:48PM   |  
By ANDREW CHUTER   |   Comments
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London — MBDA is focusing on delivery of programs under contract in Britain such as the Sea Ceptor naval surface-to-air, anti-air modular missile, Steve Wadey, managing director of MBDA UK, said.

“Basic delivery of weapons to the front line is key for us,” Wadey told reporters in London March 20.

A first test-firing of Sea Ceptor is planned later this year, ahead of being fitted onto the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate fleet later in the decade.

MBDA is 37.5 percent owned respectively by BAE Systems and EADS, and 25 percent by Finmeccanica.

Other key objectives for MBDA’s British side include continuing support of the long-range Sea Viper surface-to-air missile on the Type 45 destroyer, and moving the Meteor air-to-air missile into production.

Integration of the Meteor on the Gripen, Rafale and Typhoon fighters continues to progress and Wadey said he hoped the U.K. Defence Ministry would make a key decision this year on whether to integrate the Meteor on to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

MBDA UK hoped later this year to sign a long-term partnering agreement with the Defence Ministry on the delivery of complex weapons under a deal known as the Portfolio Manufacturing Agreement, Wadey said.

An interim deal was signed in 2010 giving industry here, led by MBDA, the lead role in future complex weapon development in exchange for 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) of efficiencies over 10 years. The deal has been fundamental in protecting U.K. skills and capabilities but has excluded leading missile players, such as Raytheon from the arrangement.

A recent independent assessment showed that industry, which includes MBDA and short-range missile maker Thales UK, were ahead of schedule on the efficiency front, Wadey said.

On Britain’s Future Air-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) (Heavy) anti-ship missile, MBDA Chief Executive Antoine Bouvier said he hoped France would move forward with its equivalent anti-navire leger program, which would allow for Anglo-French cooperation.

Bouvier warned a negative decision by France would have consequences for an Anglo-French defense treaty signed in 2010.

“In the absence of a positive decision, we would have to reassess the level of ambition of the co-operation between France and the U.K., and this is why we are doing our best to make it easier for France,” he said.

“We have proposed a number of options, like reallocating budgets from existing or new budgets to make a decision easier. We have explained what is at stake and what the consequences of the decision might be,” he said.

MBDA needs the anti-ship missile program to restructure its Anglo-French industrial operations around 12 centers of excellence, based on specialization and implementing the concept of mutual interdependence outlined in the 2010 Lancaster House defense cooperation treaty.

Sites would not close under the planned reorganization, but competences would be concentrated in the centers of excellence to cut duplication.

The FASGW (H) anti-ship missile is a key complex weapon priority for the British, who have earmarked the system as the main armament of the Royal Navy’s new Wildcat helicopter, scheduled to enter service in 2016.

Industry sources in London said they expected weapon development would get the go ahead but the timing of the program remained in doubt.

Bouvier said penetrating the U.S. market had been more difficult than expected but the company was continuing efforts to gain a foothold in the face of tough conditions.

The MBDA boss said there are significant opportunities in the U.S., notably with the Dual Mode Brimstone missile, which performed with distinction in Libya last year.

MBDA has been talking to U.S. contractors about a potential partnering arrangement.

On the key Indian market, Bouvier denied the company had signed a deal to equip Indian Air Force Jaguar jets with ASRAAM short range air-to-air missiles but confirmed discussions were under way.

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