A soft vertical launch is demonstrated of the Future Local Area Air Defence System Common Anti-air Modular Missile. (MBDA)
LONDON — Introduction of a new short-range air defense system for the British Army has moved closer with the Ministry of Defence set to announce May 1 that it has signed a deal with MBDA to start assessment phase work on a program that could see the weapon enter service around 2020.
The two sides signed a £36 million (US $60.5 million) assessment phase deal earlier this year for the land version of the Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS), being developed by the UK arm of Europe’s premier missile builder.
Based around the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), the FLAADS assessment will include work on a data link, command and control, launcher, vehicle type and other equipment that makes up the overall FLAADS system.
The assessment phase is scheduled to run for 18 months and be complete around mid-2015.
The deal is one of two defense contract announcements being made on May 1 as the government prepares to go into a purdah period ahead of the European and English local council elections set to take place May 22.
The other program involved a £364 million deal with General Dynamics UK for ongoing design and logistic support of the armed forces Bowman tactical communications system.
A decision is expected next year on whether to go ahead with a FLAADS development phase, but like many other programs with a 2015 contract approval date the exact timing could be vulnerable to the May general election, followed by a strategic defense review and possible further defense budget cuts.
The FLAADS system will replace the Rapier, which has been in service in various guises with the British Army since 1971. The current version, Rapier Field Standard C, was introduced in 1996.
An MoD spokeswoman said that no final decision had been made about the introduction into service of the missile system, but if approved entry into service would be “around the turn of the decade.”
A naval version of FLAADS using CAMM is already under development to replace the Royal Navy’s Sea Wolf missile-based system, and elements of the weapon could eventually form part of a technology insertion program updating the advanced short-range air-to-air missile used on Britain’s fast jet fleets.
MBDA is already under contract to develop the naval FLAADS, known as Sea Ceptor. The weapon is planned to enter service in 2016 onboard Type 23 frigates. Eventually it will be fitted to Type 26 frigates when they enter service around 2021.
New Zealand has purchased the weapon for use on its frigate fleet.
Antoine Bouvier, MBDA’s chief executive, said the deal “demonstrated the value of the partnership strategy that MBDA is advancing with its domestic customers. By extending the FLAADS program to land applications, the British MoD is showing that MBDA continues to be its complex weapons company of choice and recognizes its ingenuity in maximizing cost benefits through modularity and the re-use of existing technologies.”
The missile maker has a portfolio management agreement with the MoD that protects skills and technologies in exchange for efficiency savings and affordable weapons development.
Announcement of the FLAADS work comes hard on the heels of an announcement in March where MBDA secured go-ahead from the British and French governments to develop a helicopter-launched air-to-surface missile known as FASGW (Heavy). ■