France orders Meteor missiles for Rafales

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France has ordered 200 Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles, making it the third nation to commit to the production phase of the MBDA programme.

The ramjet-engined Meteor will arm Dassault Rafale fighters in French air force and navy service, with deliveries to commence in 2018, the nation's DGA procurement agency says. MBDA UK was notified of the contract award on 22 December 2010, it adds.

 
© Dassault

The UK is the lead buyer for the Meteor, having signed a development and production contract in 2002. Its acquisition is projected as valuing around £1.3 billion ($2.0 billon), according to data included in the UK National Audit Office's Major Projects Report 2010 publication. The type should enter operational use around 2015, although MBDA expects to complete certification activities by next year.

Sweden also in September 2010 signed a production order for the Meteor, which will arm its air force's Saab Gripens. Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) expects the type to become operational in 2015.

Other partners to the Meteor programme who have yet to sign production orders for the BVRAAM design are Eurofighter operators Germany, Italy and Spain. The type is also being offered to potential export operators of the Typhoon, Gripen and Rafale, and touted by MBDA as a candidate weapon system for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.