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France Seeks Cheaper Smart Bomb, But Not at Cost of Performance

January 6, 2017 (Photo Credit: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images)
PARIS — France has requested a big cost cut and higher output in its order for a new Block 4 standard of the Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM), a powered smart bomb kit built by Safran Electronics & Defense, the procurement office said.

“The Direction Générale de l’Armement awarded Dec. 29, 2016, to Safran Electronics & Defense an order for the new Armements Air-Sol Modulaires, the AASM Block 4,” the DGA said in a Jan. 5 statement.

“This order allows the company to develop a new standard of the weapon, allowing a highly significant cut in cost with identical performance and a doubling in production capacity while generating jobs in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpe and Brittany regions,” the DGA said.

The cost cuts are expected to be reached by replacing certain components in the bomb kits, which are fitted to standard NATO bombs. That lower cost should not lead to a cut in performance, the DGA has requested.

A first delivery is due in 2019, with further batches to be ordered at a later date, the DGA said. More than 1,700 AASM kits have been delivered so far.

The procurement office declined to give details on the value of the contract, number of kits in the order or the present production rate. No details were available on the components to be replaced. 

Safran E&D declined comment.

There has been a heightened security concern in the arms industry following deadly attacks in France claimed by the Islamic State group.

There has been concern at Safran as France had not renewed orders of the AASM, casting doubt on keeping the production line open. The outlook changed with the 2015 Egyptian order for the Rafale fighter, which will be armed with 200 bomb kits in three versions, weekly magazine Air & Cosmos reported.

The bomb kit, which has the capability to strike moving targets, comprises three versions, namely INS/GPS, INS/GPS and infrared, and INS/GPS and laser.

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