PARIS — The French Armed Forces Ministry has received a first batch of 50 missiles and 20 firing posts of the medium-range MMP missile, a fifth-generation weapon to replace the aging Milan anti-tank system, the government procurement office said Thursday.
“France’s defense procurement agency, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), has accepted the delivery to the French Armed Forces of the first batch of 50 missiles and 20 firing posts from the new MMP system,” the DGA said in a statement.
The French authorities ordered the MMP in 2013 from MBDA after rival pitches from the Javelin joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and from Rafael for the Spike. That French order helps MBDA to pitch the MMP in foreign markets, where the European company seeks to replace some 400,000 Milan anti-tank missiles in service amid fierce international competition.
The MMP has both fire-and-forget and man-in-the-loop capabilities, the DGA said.
That fire-and-forget capacity follows the French order in 2010 for 260 Javelins. The U.S. weapons had that capability, which the French Army had requested for troops then deployed in Afghanistan. MBDA had offered its Milan ER (extended response) but was met with rejection, as that weapon used a man-in-the-loop approach, which responded to a previous concept of operations of the French Army.
The DGA program director declined to give a value on the MMP order, but did say it was comparable to the Milan program. There was interest in the missile from foreign services, he said. No further details were available.
The first batch of MMP weapons arrived Nov. 13-23 and is an initial delivery of an order for 1,750 missiles and 400 firing posts with shipment by 2025, the procurement office said. The DGA, which awarded a 2013 contract to MBDA to develop and build the missile, certified the weapon in July, allowing the company to launch full production.
The DGA had a target order for 2,850 missiles, the procurement office said in a Dec. 5, 2013, statement, when the contract for development and production was announced. That total requirement leaves open the possibility of further orders, with the procurement office effectively taking up options for the missiles.
A delivery of 450 missiles and 175 firing posts was expected between 2014 and 2019, the DGA said in the 2013 announcement.
The initial order for MMP was worth some €550 million (U.S. $652 million), weekly industry magazine Air & Cosmos reported in 2013, with MBDA spending millions of company money to develop the weapon and keep its hold on the market for anti-tank missiles based on sales of Milan missiles.
The MMP will be deployed next year, arming ground troops, cavalry units and special forces. The weapon is due to arm the Jaguar combat and reconnaissance vehicle under the Scorpion program, with first delivery in 2020.
The missile has a range of 4,000 meters and is designed to knock out tanks, with a capability to strike from above in the last phase of flight. The weapon is intended to be precise enough to be guided through a window to hit enemies inside a building and avoid harming civilians. Troops can fire the missile from inside a room — a key capability in urban combat.