A Raytheon-built SM-3 Block 1B interceptor missile is launched from a US Navy ship in May. Raytheon is partnering with four European firms to bid for a NATO ballistic-missile defense contract. (US Navy)
PARIS — Four European companies have teamed with an American firm to bid in NATO’s tender for design work on ballistic-missile defense, an EADS executive said.
The military alliance is expected to open a competition in December or January for a seven-year contract valued at an estimated €67 million (US $91 million) for system engineering and integration for missile defense in Europe.
Astrium leads the project team, dubbed Perseus, with EADS defense unit Cassidian also on the joint effort, said Philippe Clar, director of defense programs at the EADS space division. The team includes IABG of Germany, Thales of France, TNO of the Netherlands and US-based Raytheon. The team is understood to be the first to announce its intention to bid.
The tender will likely attract stiff competition, with US heavyweights such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin widely expected to compete.
The NATO deal is intended to “define the missile defense architecture dedicated to the defense of Europe and to set up requirements for the NATO command-and-control systems,” Clar said.
The work requires building “a test bed to test this architecture and connect with sensor and weapons systems,” he said. The goal is a battle management communication system that works across Europe’s sky.
“It’s a business opportunity,” Clar said when asked what makes the program important. “Missile defense is a strategic program, very important for European industry.”
On the geopolitics, there is a real question on the need for the missile defense program, a defense consultant said.
“Is the threat immediate or not immediate?” said François Lureau, head of consulting firm EuroFLconsult. “Iran is an important element.”
Iran has just signed an interim six-month agreement to restrict its nuclear program after talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, and chaired by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Under an agreement reached at the Lisbon 2010 NATO summit, the partner nations will plug their sensors and weapons into an overarching missile shield that protects European territory and population.
For France, its contribution “in kind” will be satellites and radars for early detection, and warships armed with anti-missile Aster weapons, Lureau said. The Paris priority, however, is missile defense at the theater level rather than the larger territory scale, he said.
“NATO is in charge of constructing the command and control to operate the different assets and ensure the interoperability of the different systems,” Clar said.
The winning industrial group will specify NATO’s command-and-control system, plug the test bed into the national defense systems and show it works.
Astrium has worked closely with NATO over the past 10 years, while Cassidian has experience in missile defense through its work on the German forces’ surface-to-air missile operations center.
IABG is a research specialist for NATO and German forces, while TNO has worked in air and missile defense.
Thales air systems division works on the sol-air moyenne port e terrestre theater missile — operated by the French Air Force, which named it Mamba — and specializes in C2 and radars.
Raytheon works on the SM-3 missile and radar sensors, and is partnered with the French company through the ThalesRaytheonSystems joint venture.
Each of the companies brings the ability “to address the challenges to the NATO missile defense architecture,” Clar said.
The companies also bring in a national member interest.
Perseus stands for Partners for Experienced Support from Europe and the US. In Greek mythology, Perseus took Medusa’s head and handed it to Athena, who put it on her Aegis shield. The Aegis combat system is the backbone of the US Navy’s missile defense system. Aegis is a NATO term for Airborne Early Warning / Ground Environment Integration Segment developed in the 1980s.
The NATO tender is expected to last three months before a selection. ■