Exports remain key target for 2014, MBDA says

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MBDA says it faces “a year of opportunity, but also a year of challenges”, after reporting an increased orders intake worth €4 billion ($5.6 billion) in 2013.

For the second year in a row, the European guided weapons company’s business included a higher orders value from export customers than from its home nations of France, Germany, Italy and the UK. International orders were worth €2.1 billion in 2013, it says, with chief financial officer Peter Bols saying 90% of the order intake came from customers in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Air sector business highlights included Germany’s production order for Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, and a 10-year support deal for its Taurus Systems KEPD 350 cruise missiles (pictured below, during flight testing with Eurofighter).

Taurus is a joint venture between MBDA and Sweden’s Saab Dynamics. The latter also received a production contract to supply the KEPD 350 to South Korea, for integration with its Boeing F-15Ks.

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Airbus Defence & Space

Combined with domestic orders valued at €1.9 billion – which the company says were secured within a “difficult budget environment in Europe” – these and other commitments saw the orders total increase from €2.3 billion in 2012.

Last year also saw confirmation of Anglo-French plans to introduce the FASGW/ANL anti-ship missile, which UK managing director Steve Wadey says should be followed by a production contract “in the near term”.

MBDA has identified “a number of important campaigns” to make additional export sales in 2014, but declines to provide specific details. However, major combat aircraft deals with related weapons packages could be signed this year to equip the Indian air force with Dassault Rafales, and both Brazil and Switzerland with Saab Gripen Es.

MBDA chief executive Antoine Bouvier was absent from a 19 March results briefing in London, due to what Wadey describes as a short-notice and “very senior customer request”. This is linked to a Paris visit by senior officials from Qatar, including the Gulf state’s defence minister. Doha is currently holding a fighter competition, with candidates including the Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, alongside requirements for naval weapon systems.

Meanwhile, Wadey says MBDA delivered production examples of its Meteor missile to two of its six European customers in late 2013. The design is due to perform further firing trials with the Gripen, Rafale and Typhoon this year, he adds.

Sweden is expected to become the first nation to field the weapon operationally, with its Gripens expected to be able to use the system from 2015.