UK orders Thales lightweight multi-role missiles for Lynx Wildcat

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Thales UK has secured a 1,000-unit launch order for its lightweight multi-role missile (LMM), less than three years after revealing its development work on the modular design.

Announcing its success on 5 April, the company says the breakthrough order is the result of a new agreement with the UK Ministry of Defence "to re-role previously contracted budgets".

Full-scale development and series production of a laser beam-riding version of the LMM will be launched to equip the UK Royal Navy's AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat helicopters. Formal selection of the design meets the MoD's requirement to arm the type with a future anti-surface guided weapon light.

 
© AgustaWestland

Thales UK says another version with a blast/fragmentation and shaped charge warhead is also planned for use against light and medium armoured ground vehicles, while others could satisfy a range of air-launched applications.

"The modular design of the missile permits the future development and introduction of alternative warheads and seekers, including a semi-active laser [SAL] version for precision strike surface attack roles," it says. The company performed successful flight tests with a SAL seeker during March, and will perform further work this year.

Each LMM round has a launch weight of around 13kg (28lb) and a claimed range of up to 4.3nm (8km). Unveiled in June 2008, the weapon "will deliver a highly accurate performance against static and mobile targets and with low-collateral damage," its developer says. The design, which draws on elements of the in-service Starstreak ground-based air defence missile, is also suitable for carriage by unmanned air vehicles.

 
© Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal
Thales UK has displayed its LMM weapon with UAV types including the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter

"We firmly believe that this is what armed forces require now and in the future, as it not only can provide adaptability in the battlefield but also major benefits in whole-life costs by having one weapon family with a highly cost-effective associated logistic support," says David Beatty, managing director of Thales UK's Belfast manufacturing facility.

Thales UK expects to complete qualification activities with the laser beam-riding version of LMM in 2012, before launching series production at the end of the same year. Deliveries should commence in 2013, it says.

Export sales are also being sought, with Beatty citing "a very high level of interest in this new family of missiles from land, sea and air platform suppliers".

The LMM programme is among a series of initiatives being advanced through the MoD's Team Complex Weapons initiative: a partnership involving the MoD, MBDA UK, Qinetiq, Roxel and Thales UK. Others include the MBDA-led Fire Shadow loitering munition concept.