PARIS — Britain and France intend to acquire, respectively, the planned Aster Block 1 New Technology missile and Brimstone guided missile as part of a cooperation policy of “cross procurement,” Antoine Bouvier, chairman of missile builder MBDA, said Thursday.
London and Paris will also equally share a €100 million budget to fund planned concept studies for next generation British and French missiles, including the deep strike Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise weapon.
“It is the intention of Great Britain to acquire Aster block 1 NT, and the intention of France to acquire the Brimstone for the Tiger helicopter in its new standard,” he told journalists as the company reported 2015 financial results, which showed a €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) jump in orders.
“These two programs, these two products were mentioned in a new framework, which is a cross-procurement framework,” he said.
The two MBDA missiles would be “considered,” Britain and France said at the March 3 bilateral summit at Amiens, France.
London is considering fitting the planned Aster Block 1 NT on the Type 45 air defense destroyer, and Paris wants to arm a planned Tiger Mark 3 upgraded attack helicopter with the Brimstone 2 weapon.
At a previous Anglo-French summit at Brize Norton air base, there was interest from the UK on putting the upgraded Aster on the T45 warship, to boost anti-ballistic missile capability and fleet defense, Bouvier said. The Amiens agreement was a continuation of that policy.
There are several options for the French Army’s Tiger, and France said it would pay close attention to the Brimstone.
This would be a new form of international cooperation, with countries acquiring weapons on a global approach. This is a “very rich form of cooperation,” he said.
British strike fighters have hit moving trucks in Syria, showing the effectiveness of Brimstone, said a British official who was not authorized for comment.
There was talk of cooperation in a previous plan where France would order the Thales Watchkeeper tactical drone and Britain select the Véhicle Blindé de Combat et Infanterie, an infantry vehicle, but Paris has since picked the Sagem Patroller.
MBDA is seeking sales of Brimstone in the US, which has been and continues to be a hard market to enter, Bouvier said. “We are very stubborn,” he said. A requirement is due to be drawn up soon for this type of weapon and the company plans to continue presenting its weapon. European manufacturers, including “platform” builders, have great difficulty to sell in America.
France and Italy agreed at the end of 2015 on the road map for the Aster upgrade, and that agreement will be amended to include the Anglo-French cooperation for next-generation deep-strike weapons, he said.
Another significant decision at the Amiens summit was the statement of intent to launch three-year concept studies, with an equally shared €100 million budget, for replacements of the French Scalp, Exocet and naval cruise missile, and the British Storm Shadow, Harpoon and Tomahawk weapons, he said.
The studies for the future cruise/anti-ship weapon are due to be launched next year, he said. These aim to reduce risk, identify technology solutions and converge requirements of the two countries. This is “extremely important” for the company, he said.
The Scalp-Storm Shadow programs allowed creation of the MBDA joint venture between Britain and France. Firms in Italy, Spain and Germany later joined the company.
MBDA reported a 25 percent rise in 2015 orders to €5.2 billion from €4.1 billion a year ago, helped by sales to Egypt and Qatar. Those orders were for weapons for the Rafale fighter and Fremm multimission frigate for the former, and the twin-engined combat jet for the latter.
Orders are expected to fall this year, while sales are expected to break above the €3 billion mark, Bouvier said.
The Qatar order for missiles was worth some €2 billion, while the Egyptian deal was less than €1 billion, French media report. MBDA declined comment.
Exports account for some 70 percent of orders, with domestic deals bringing in 30 percent.
“There is still a large gap on the price,” on negotiations with India on a potential order for 36 Rafales, Bouvier said.
The next days or weeks will show whether a deal will be struck. A big step was the intergovernmental agreement signed in January between France and India on the Rafales, and now the focus is on price negotiations.
Sales rose 20 percent to €2.9 billion from €2.4 billion, and the orderbook climbed to €15.1 billion from €12.6 billion, representing four- to five years of work. Sales are expected to fall this year.
MBDA is in talks with Turkish companies, following Ankara’s decision at the end of last year to cancel a tender for an air defense system, in which China Precision Machinery Import Export Corp (CPMIEC) had been picked for the $3.44 billion project.
Turkey wants local industry to develop a long-range system against cruise and ballistic missiles, while working with “solid partners” to develop the new products, Bouvier said. MBDA is discussing with Turkish companies and will see this year if it can meet the requirements.
MBDA was offering its Aster 30 against the Patriot missile from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and against the Chinese bid.
On the Aster, the new technology upgrade would allow the Aster 30 to hit enemy missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers. The Block 1 model held by French and Italian forces can hit incoming missiles with a range of 600 kilometers, such as the Scud B.
An upgraded NT version is on the roadmap for building an Aster Block 2, which would intercept weapons with a range of 3,000 kilometers.