MBDA hopes to soon advance the development of its FASGW/ANL anti-ship missile for the UK and France, following the latter's near-term release of a White Paper outlining its military investment priorities, says company chief executive Antoine Bouvier.
Since June 2012 Paris has deferred the signature of any new weapon programmes pending the review of its equipment needs, removing an expected development order from MBDA's annual results last year, Bouvier says.
"I hope that a decision will be taken soon, and I hope that this decision will be positive," he said during a media briefing in London on 20 March. Approval of a deal "would be a strong confirmation of a willingness of the French government to continue this Anglo-French collaboration," he adds.
MBDA has meanwhile suggested potentially moving funds from other complex weapons programmes to enable the development work to proceed.
The FASGW/ANL is intended to arm types including the French navy's NH Industries NH90s (pictured above) and AgustaWestland's AW159 Wildcat for the UK Royal Navy.
With budgetary pressures being felt increasingly in its domestic European market, exports will play a key part in maintaining MBDA's current annual turnover of €3 billion ($3.88 billion), Bouvier says. In 2012 the company secured record international sales worth €1.4 billion, with around €1 billion of this sum coming from an order for Mica air-to-air missiles to equip the Indian air force's upgraded Dassault Mirage 2000 strike aircraft.
The current level of turnover is likely to continue during 2013 and beyond, "and only ramp-up when some additional weapon packages that we are competing for around the world come in" towards the end of the company's current five-year plan, says chief financial officer Peter Bols. Such potential business is linked to offers of the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft to India and nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, Bouvier says. "These will give the big deals in the future," he adds.
In 2013 export business could again come from India, if it finalises a contract to arm its Sepecat/Hindustan Aeronautics Jaguars with Asraam air-to-air missiles. "We are in discussions," confirms MBDA UK managing director Steve Wadey.
MBDA also continues to target potential business opportunities in the USA, although its chief executive says access to the market has been more difficult than anticipated. The company's MBDA Inc subsidiary is currently in discussions with potential industry partners as it promotes the Dual-Mode Brimstone precision-guided missile to the US armed services. Used by the UK Royal Air Force in Afghanistan and Libya, the type could possibly arm types such as the Marine Corps' Boeing AV-8B Harrier IIs.
While Bouvier describes the Brimstone weapon system as representing MBDA's "most critical objective" in its attempts to enter the US military's supply chain, Wadey says 2013 also represents a key year in its pitch to have its Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missile integrated with Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"We see 2013 as a critical year in the JSF programme, to take a decision on the best route for Meteor integration and timings," says Wadey. A decision on whether to add the type to the F-35's arsenal of weapons will be required from the UK Ministry of Defence, he adds.