MBDA is planning an audacious raid on the already congested US air-launched weapons sector, with the company's local subsidiary touting the dual mode seeker-equipped Brimstone to its armed services.
With Brimstone's capability having been demonstrated through its use by the UK Royal Air Force's current Tornado GR4s in Afghanistan (MBDA-sourced image below shows one of the missiles being carried) and Libya and also by its now-retired Harriers, MBDA says trying to sell the weapon to the US military is a "critical objective" for 2013.
Speaking at an annual results briefing in London on 20 March, company chief executive Antoine Bouvier said gaining a foothold in the US market has been tougher than expected for its MBDA Inc unit, but that it believes a Brimstone deal "would make a lot of sense for the USA".
"It has proved to be more difficult than expected to develop this strategy," he said, referring to a desire to establish MBDA Inc as a recognised US contractor. "This is due to an environment which is not welcoming us: the budget situation has made it very difficult for a newcomer."
MBDA Inc's acquisition of the Viper Strike product line from Northrop Grumman in late 2011 means it has a production facility available, but Bouvier hints at a more likely model for any deal. "We continue to discuss with US companies about structured and articulated partnerships," he says.
The US Army of course has its JAGM programme, which has involved major investments in propulsion and tri-mode seeker technologies, but could be acceptable in an era of sequestration for a US partner to adapt the Brimstone airframe for the domestic market?
I'm not sure how that would ride with firm advocates of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon products, but this weapon exists and works today. And, contrary to likely comments from opponents, it's not French, but the product of the UK's air-launched anti-armour requirement.
For any tech-heads out there, the 50kg (110lb) precision strike missile is 1.8m (5.9ft) long, carries a tandem shaped charge warhead and uses a millimetric wave radar and semi-active laser seeker. Carried on a "three-pack" rail launcher, it's a massively redeveloped AGM-114 Hellfire, adapted for the fast jet operating environment. MBDA says the combination "defeats all known conventional and reactive armour", but it was also used to good effect against moving land vehicles and even a small boat during the Libya conflict.