LONDON — The British Army is to get a new ground-based air defense missile to replace the aging Rapier system following the signing of a development and manufacture deal by the Defence Ministry and MBDA last month.
The contract for the land-based future local area air defense system (FLAADS) has yet to be publicly announced, but an MoD spokeswomen confirmed a program worth £228 million (US $343 million) had been signed with Europe's leading missile maker just before Christmas.
The spokeswomen said the MoD "anticipated the introduction of FLAADS into service towards the end of the decade."
The weapon has been mandated by the MoD for inclusion in a new ground-based air defense system planned for the islands.
The FLAADS (Land) deal has been completed, even though MBDA is only 12 months into to a £36 million, 18-month assessment phase effort.
The MoD did not respond to questions about whether the demonstration and production signing had been brought forward to avoid getting delayed by the upcoming general election in May and a following strategic defense review and potentially heavy budget cuts.
One industry executive said it was a possible reason for the apparent acceleration of the contract award.
He pointed to an unexpected £3.5 billion production deal in September with General Dynamics UK to build a family of Scout armored vehicles as another example of a key program being nailed down ahead of the election and other issues.
FLAADS (L) uses the same MBDA common anti-air modular missile as the weapon already ordered by the Royal Navy as part of the Sea Ceptor system being fitted initially to Type 23 frigates.
The ongoing FLAADS (L) assessment phase work is looking at other parts of the ground-based requirement such as command and control, vehicle type and other equipment required for the land environment.
An early demonstration vehicle showed a vertical launch system mounted on a MAN truck.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.