MBDA and Milrem Robotics are showcasing the world’s first anti-tank Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) at IDEX 2019, the main defence industry event in the MENA region. The debut of the system’s advanced concept comes only eight months after Milrem Robotics and MBDA announced the start of feasibility studies of the system.
The joint project integrates the Milrem Robotics THeMIS Unmanned Ground Vehicle with the MBDA IMPACT (Integrated MMP Precision Attack Combat Turret) system fitted with two MMP 5th generation battlefield engagement missiles and a self-defence machine gun. «This combination of two of the most modern technologies in their field is a very good example how robotic warfare systems will bring disruption to the battlefield and make some traditional technologies obsolete», said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics. «Our unmanned land combat system under study together with MBDA will be very efficient in keeping our troops safe and significantly increasing the capability to fight main battle tanks as well as any other ground target», Väärsi added.
The land combat warfare system is intended to be remotely operated. Soldiers can deploy it while remaining at a safe distance and using a wireless or a tethered connection. The system will have a low heat and noise signature so it can stay unnoticed until completing its mission.
«Being delivered to the French Army since the end of 2017, the MMP system is now deployed by the French forces in theatre, where it replaces the Milan and Javelin missiles. With fully digitalized functions of observation, targeting, positioning and guidance, the MMP system is perfectly suited for integration on vehicles, including remotely operated ones», said Francis Bordachar, Military Advisor Land Products at MBDA.
MBDA has received a contract for the integration of its Brimstone high-precision strike missile onto the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector RG Mk1 remotely piloted aircraft developed and manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI).
Brimstone and Protector RG Mk1 will provide key new capabilities to the Royal Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) force, enabling them to engage high-speed moving and manoeuvring targets (including maritime fast attack craft for the first time). The Protector RG Mk1 can carry three lightweight Brimstones per weapon station, and so offers a much higher loadout than the Reaper platform it will replace.
Integration of Brimstone onto Protector RG Mk1 (which is the weaponised version of MQ-9B SkyGuardian) follows a series of successful firing trials of Brimstone from the Reaper/Predator B aircraft in the United States that demonstrated the advancement in performance that Brimstone offers. Brimstone integration will be completed in time for the entry to service of the aircraft with the RAF.
James Allibone, MBDA’s UK Sales Director, said: «Protector RG Mk1 is the third UK air platform to benefit from the unmatched capabilities of the Brimstone missile, providing UK Armed Forces with vital operational advantages and sovereign defence capabilities. Brimstone is unique in its ability to be carried by platforms in all domains, land, sea and air, providing a common weapon that delivers both operational and cost benefits. Commonality is a key part of all MBDA’s latest systems, and is a major contributor to the £1.7 billion in savings that the partnership approach between the UK MoD and MBDA has generated».
Earlier in 2018, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) announced a £400 million contract with MBDA for the Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) of Brimstone missile, to build new missiles and extend this missile’s service life beyond 2030.
At the end of 2018, MBDA successfully demonstrated the use of the Mistral missile against fast boats such as FIACs (Fast Inshore Attack Crafts). A number of foreign delegations attended the demonstration firing that was performed from a SIMBAD-RC automated naval turret firing from the land against a fast moving remotely-controlled semi-rigid boat more than 3 kilometres/1.86 miles off the coast. The scenario was intended to be representative of the self-protection of a vessel against an asymmetric threat (commando or terrorist attack).
In its latest version currently in service with the French armed forces, the Mistral is an air defence missile equipped with an imaging infrared seeker with advanced image processing capabilities that allow it to engage low thermal signature targets from a long distance (such targets include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), missiles and fast boats), whilst at the same time offering excellent resistance to countermeasures.
The SIMBAD-RC is a remotely-controlled very short range naval air defence system that provides highly efficient capacities against a wide range of threats, from combat aircraft through anti-ship missiles to small-sized threats such as UAVs.
The system is easy to install and thus provides small units or support vessels with a true self-defence capacity, or can even ensure reinforced defence for the other types of surface vessels. Each turret supports two ready-to-fire Mistral missiles. The turret is remotely-operated, allowing the operator to remain under cover in the vessel’s operation centre, and thus ensures longer operational availability in case of a combat alert.
«MBDA is constantly striving to help armed forces make optimum use of their investments in our products», said MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier. «The demonstration of the SIMBAD-RC Mistral combination against surface targets reflects our policy of giving our systems additional capacities to supplement those they were originally designed to provide».
At the end of 2018, MBDA successfully demonstrated the use of the Mistral missile against fast boats such as FIACs (Fast Inshore Attack Crafts)
EU Defence ministers have endorsed on 19 November the EU BLOS (Beyond Line Of Sight) project amongst a list of 17 defence projects aiming at being implemented in the frame of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Proposed by France and supported by Belgium and Cyprus, the EU BLOS project is the first missile system project to benefit from this new cooperation framework.
Promoting a differentiating operational capability for military operations, this project will contribute to a consistent and autonomous European approach in the land combat domain whilst enhancing the qualitative contribution of European nations to the achievement of NATO’s level of ambition. The land combat domain has been recognized since June 2018 as one of the 11 European capability priorities.
The EU BLOS project aims at developing a family of BLOS missiles with back image and man in the loop capabilities. Based on the MMP missile system, this family of products will be fully mastered by European industry, which provides full autonomy of use, security of supply and future evolutions, to the benefit of the 25 PESCO member nations. One of the first priorities of this project will focus on defining a European doctrine of use and its associated concepts of operation. This project will pave the way for the creation of a European users club which will develop the growth potential of the MMP missile system in terms of missile evolutions as well as in terms of integration to a wide range of land and air platforms.
The EU BLOS project will also benefit from the CAMO (CApacité MOtorisée) bilateral strategic partnership between France and Belgium, helping build operational and capability synergies across the armies of both nations.
MBDA’s Marte ER anti-ship missile has completed its first firing, successfully passing a major phase in its development.
The firing trial was carried out on 9 November in an Italian test range. The Marte ER missile flew for more than 100 km/62 miles/54 NM on a planned trajectory that included several waypoints and sea skimming flight, successfully testing all flying phases.
Pasquale Di Bartolomeo, Executive Group Director Sales & Business Development and Managing Director MBDA Italia, commented: «This test is a further confirmation of the robustness of the ER version of the Marte family of multi-platform anti-ship missiles that can be launched by ships, helicopters, coastal batteries and fast jets. The Marte family has a strong and successful history both at domestic and international levels: most recently with Marte ER being ordered earlier in 2018 by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) for their new NH90 helicopters. Marte is a single product family that can cover several missions, offering our customers a high level of operational flexibility in the area of maritime superiority, a domain where MBDA in Italy has been able throughout its long history not only to maintain but also to grow as well as further develop competencies and know-how».
The Marte ER programme is progressing at full speed in order to meet customers’ requirements. Having completed the 18 months System Definition Phase, the full integration of Marte ER on the Eurofighter Typhoon platform is proceeding at pace in order to implement an anti-ship capability onto the fighter.
The French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) has awarded MBDA the contract for the MICA NG (Missile d’Interception et de Combat Aérien Nouvelle Génération) programme to develop the next generation of the MICA missile. With deliveries scheduled to begin in 2026, MICA NG will be available to arm the current and future versions of the Rafale combat aircraft.
MICA NG is intended as the replacement for the MICA missiles currently in operational service with the French armed forces and exported to 14 countries worldwide. The NG programme includes an extensive redesign of the current MICA family while keeping the same aerodynamics, mass and centre of gravity. This is done to minimise the amount of adaptation required to operate the new system with existing platforms and launchers. The unique concept that has ensured the ongoing success of MICA for two decades remains: the option of two different seekers (infrared and radio frequency) and two launch modes (rail and ejection) in a single missile casing.
The technological step changes introduced with this change of generation will provide the capability to counter future threats. This includes targets with reduced infrared and electromagnetic signatures, atypical targets (UAVs and small aircraft), as well as the threats normally countered by air-to-air missiles (combat aircraft and helicopters).
More specifically, the infrared seeker will use a matrix sensor providing greater sensitivity. Meanwhile the radio frequency seeker will use an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Antenna), enabling smart detection strategies. The reduced volume of electronic components within MICA NG will allow it to carry a larger quantity of propellant, thereby significantly extending the range of the missile. Utilising a new double-pulse rocket motor will also provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight to improve manoeuvrability and the ability to intercept targets at long range. Lastly, the addition of internal sensors will allow the monitoring of the status of the weapon throughout its life (including during storage and transport), contributing to significantly reduced maintenance requirements and cost of ownership.
MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier said at the programme launch: «We are proud of the work completed with the DGA to achieve maximum technical and financial optimisation. The fact that we have reached this stage is thanks to the vision that we were able to share with our French customer to address its operational challenges, as well as our own long-term commercial challenges. The upgrading of the MICA family will enable us to support the armed forces throughout the remaining operational life of the Rafale».
About the MICA missile
MICA entered service in 1997, and was designed to replace the short-term MAGIC 2 missile and the medium-range Super 530 D missile with a single weapon system equipped with two interchangeable seekers: one being radio frequency and the other infrared. Approximately 5,000 MICA missiles in various versions have been ordered by 22 armed forces around the world.
MBDA has unveiled its new naval offering based on the MMP 5th generation ground combat missile at Euronaval. This decision follows the operational evaluation campaign carried out at the end of the summer by the French armed forces in Djibouti to confirm the reliability and operational performance of the Missile Moyenne Portée (MMP – Medium-Range Missile) system in a hot environment, both from the ground and also from a Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) moving at high speed.
A total of nine MMP missiles were fired with all reaching their target. Two of these shots were fired by the maritime force of marines and commandos from a L’Embarcation Commando à Usage Multiple Embarquable (ECUME) RHIB. A first firing from the sea-to-land and the second from sea-to-sea have demonstrated the ease of use of the MMP.
The success of this evaluation allows MBDA to extend the integration perspectives of the MMP system and to propose it on fast attack craft or semi-rigid boats for missions against hostile ships, coastal defenses or armored vehicles, especially in support of a landing of small units or Special Forces.
At Euronaval, the MMP system (firing post and missile) is presented on the Zodiac Milpro booth, installed on a Hurricane type RHIB. On fast patrol boats, the MMP will be fired from a stabilised turret carrying four ready-to-fire ammunitions installed in launchers protecting the missiles from the maritime environment. The turret can be controlled from a dedicated console or from a multifunction console in the ship’s operations center.
Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA, said: «Today’s launch of a family of naval systems based on the MMP missile is aligned with the trajectory we initiated with the French armies at the launch of the MMP program in 2011. By deciding at that time to introduce the most modern technologies of guidance and propulsion together with a multi-effect warhead, we laid the foundations of a family of weapons capable of meeting the most demanding constraints the armed forces may encounter in the field, in terms of tactical effects, in terms of mobility, as well as in environmental terms. The MMP family sees today the advent of naval versions. I have no doubt that the MMP will give birth to other more powerful versions in the near future».
The leading European missile systems designer and producer MBDA and unmanned vehicles manufacturer Milrem Robotics will begin developing the world’s first Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) specially designed for anti-tank purposes.
The joint project will feature the IMPACT (Integrated MMP Precision Attack Combat Turret) system from MBDA that will be integrated onto the THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle by Milrem Robotics.
The system will be remotely operated and is in line with the system developers’ main aim of exchanging humans on the battlefield for much more capable robots.
«One of the challenges in urban warfare is keeping anti-tank infantry hidden from the enemy’s surveillance equipment that can very easily detect soldier’s heat signature. The aim of our joint integration project is developing a system that has a low heat signature and most importantly – will keep infantry in a safe distance», explained Brig Gen (res) Alar Laneman, military advisor of Milrem Robotics.
«MMP, the world’s only 5th Generation anti-tank guided weapon, now in service within the French Armed Forces, has been developed for both mounted and dismounted applications and is suitable for unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). With its 4km+ range and its two firing modes – Lock On Before Launch (LOBL) and Lock On After Launch (LOAL) – the MMP gives to THeMIS UGV an unmatched capability to engage a target beyond line of sight. MMP allows, within remote operation, to engage very discreetly battlefield targets at ranges greater than the enemies counter fire, from behind cover and within structures in fighting in built-up areas. The MMP Firing installation deployed on UGV also provides an ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, & Reconnaissance) capability and, through direct integration with a Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) network, delivers battlefield intelligence out beyond the platoon», added the former Colonel Francis Bordachar, military advisor of MBDA.
MBDA’s Licorne pocket air defence Command and Control (C2) system has become the first fielded C2 to integrate anti-drone and traditional air defence capabilities.
Licorne is a very lightweight C2 solution with the ability to co-ordinate Very SHOrt-Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) systems, such as those of the Mistral family. A highly mobile C2, it is derived from the Improved Missile Control Post (I-MCP) and Platoon Command Post (PCP) systems family currently in use with armed forces in export markets, using the same software components, architecture and Human Machine Interfaces (HMI).
In order to deliver an effective response to the emergence of asymmetric threats, and particularly mini-drone attacks on deployed ground-to-air assets or other military assets inside the protected zone, Licorne can now also deploy anti-drone measures, and co-ordinate them with the traditional air defence assets.
To achieve this, MBDA has supplemented its C2 with a set of data link detectors and jammers originally developed to provide security for events or prisons, which have been adapted to military needs. For detection, Licorne uses a mobile radio frequency detection unit produced by Cerbair to intercept mini-drone data link transmissions. Once the threat has been detected and located, Licorne allows operators to activate countermeasures using a network of field-deployed jammers developed by KEAS.
Licorne’s scalable architecture is designed to enable the system to provide a first level of co-ordination for the VSHORAD systems used by rapid reaction forces, airborne units and amphibious units. Licorne provides surveillance, detection and identification functions with a high level of connectivity. It can be used in association with passive infrared 360° surveillance sensors, lightweight radars or Electronic Support Measurements (ESM) and acoustic sensors. Pocket C2 Licorne provides all the functions expected of a C2, including multisensor data fusion; real-time ranging; shared tactical position calculation; and even uploading battery sensor images to upper command levels using standard NATO military data link protocols such as the Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol C (JREAP-C).
MBDA’s Sea Venom/ANL (Anti-Navire Léger) missile has successfully completed its second development firing from a French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA – Direction Générale de l’Armement) Panther test helicopter at Ile Du Levant in southeast France.
The firing, which took place on 18 April 2018, highlighted Sea Venom/ANL’s Lock On After Launch (LOAL) capabilities. It also validated its aptitude for low-altitude, sea-skimming flight, the effectiveness of the data link between the missile and helicopter and Sea Venom/ANL’s autonomous guidance capability, using images from its infrared seeker.
Guto Bebb, UK Minister for Defence Procurement, said: «Sea Venom is yet another weapon that will help our Royal Navy keep the United Kingdom safe amid intensifying global threats. The lightweight subsonic sea-skimming missile, which will equip our Wildcat helicopters, will add to our Navy’s impressive capabilities while at sea and ensure they remain equipped to face every eventuality. The test firing partnership between France and the United Kingdom is also another fantastic display of the two nations working together to protect global waters».
Frank Bastart, head of the Sea Venom/ANL programme at MBDA said: «We’re delighted that the second development firing of Sea Venom/ANL was a complete success. We have now tested a range of the missile’s capabilities and it has performed to the very edge of its operational envelope, which is testament to the hard work and skills of our development and production teams in conjunction with DGA. This is a significant milestone in the development of the missile and when it enters service Sea Venom/ANL will provide a major increase in capability to the UK and French navies».
Sea Venom/ANL is part of an Anglo-French programme linked to the Lancaster House treaty agreed between the UK and France in November 2010 and possesses a «fire and forget» mode along with ‘operator above the loop’ capability to maintain control over the entire missile trajectory. It has been designed for use from the widest range of platforms; in UK service the missile will be used from the AW159 Wildcat helicopter, while France will operate the missile from its future Light Joint Helicopter (HIL – Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger). The missile is designed to enable the helicopters of both countries’ navies to deal with a range of threats including fast moving patrol boats, corvettes and coastal targets.
MBDA was awarded the production contract for Sea Venom/ANL in March 2014. The joint programme is the first to take full advantage of mutual dependency arrangements agreed under the ‘One Complex Weapons’ initiative designed to consolidate the Anglo-French missile industry around MBDA.