PARIS — MBDA is indirectly pitching its Sea Ceptor naval air defense system to Finland, which is looking overseas to arm its planned four-strong fleet of Squadron 2020 corvettes.

The European missile company is making its offer, based on the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), through three companies which are on the short list to supply the combat management system to the Finnish authorities, Paul Stanley, MBDA vice president for northern Europe, told Defense News April 10. Atlas Elektronik, Lockheed Martin Canada and Saab are bidding for the CMS contract, he said.

The bidders for the CMS deal will propose an “air defense system as part of a package, with recommendations,” he said. The Finnish authorities will then “make a selection.”

A best and final offer for the missiles could be expected in the fall, he said.

That indirect approach in the tender leaves the missile maker relying on the combat systems integrator, which is expected to offer the U.S. Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) and Barak from Israel, he said. It makes sense for the systems integrator to offer a range of weapons, while the missile company will not know if it is the first choice.

Raytheon Missile Systems builds the ESSM weapon, and BAE Systems in Aberdeen, South Dakota, builds the missile canisters.

Finland is also looking for a land-based anti-air missile, with companies to make “first response” at the end of April in a request for information, he said. That requirement opens up the possibility of the Finnish Army and Navy operating a common missile if CAMM were picked, he said.

MBDA developed and built the CAMM weapon for the British Army before fitting the missile on British Royal Navy warships.

The Finnish naval tender has set two key requirements: the weapon should be a mature system rather than a concept for a future armament, and the missile launcher should fit on the ship, he said.

MBDA believes its weapon meets those requirements.

The British Navy has certified and installed Sea Ceptor on three of the Type 23 frigates, including the Argyll, he said. The weapon will later be installed on the next generation Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, as the Navy seeks to fit one type of anti-air missile on all its warships.

The New Zealand Navy has picked Sea Ceptor for its future frigates after holding a tender which pitched the British system againt ESSM, he said. Chile has selected Sea Ceptor for its Type 23 frigate after a competition which included ESSM and Barak. Brazil has also picked Sea Ceptor for its “home-grown” corvette program but has yet to sign a contract.

Spain, a long time operator of ESSM, has asked MBDA to conduct a technology study for the Sea Ceptor to be fitted its F110 future frigate, he said.

There is “a lot of interest in a fiercely competitive market,” which has long been led by ESSM, he said.

MBDA has worked with Lockheed Martin over five years to develop a lightweight version of the MK41 launcher for CAMM, he said. A qualification was signed two weeks ago for an extensible lightweight launcher, dubbed ExLS, which is intended to fit on smaller naval vessels.

That launcher allows a “soft launch,” which uses compressed air and avoids firing the main missile motor onboard.

Both the lightweight and conventional MK41 launchers are offered to Finland.

The Finnish Navy designers will seek high performance in a corvette which will sail through shallow waters and ice, he said. That calls for avoiding carrying heavy systems onboard, particularly at the bow, he said. MBDA expects that will favor a pick of CAMM, which weighs around 100 kg, about half the weight of ESSM, he added.

Finland seeks a missile with range of some 40 km, greater than the CAMM’s “effective range” of some 30 km, he said. MBDA is at the end of a development phase for a CAMM Extended Range version for the Italian Army and Navy. That missile, which would meet the Finnish range requirement, is expected to enter service with Italy in a year or two. That ER model would be available to Finland and Spain.