The UK and France have launched a co-operative effort under which their defence industries will develop a new anti-ship missile for use by helicopters including the AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat and NH Industries NH90.

MBDA UK has been awarded a 27-month assessment phase contract worth £35 million ($58.4 million) to explore technologies for the new weapon. This is expected to result in a joint design to meet requirements for the UK's Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) and France's ANL (Anti-Navire Léger). This will replace their current Sea Skua and AS15TT missiles from around 2015.

"Work will be undertaken in the UK and France, using industries within their respective supply chains," says the UK Ministry of Defence. "Subsystem technology will be matured sufficiently to progress into full demonstration."


The nations began exploring a possible joint solution following a March 2008 agreement, and trial fits of a representative 100kg (220lb)-class weapon have already been conducted using a Royal Navy Lynx HMA8 (above) and a French navy Eurocopter AS565 Panther (below).

ANL Panther - Marine Nationale 
© Marine Nationale

"The solution is required to defeat the most challenging of target threats in future maritime and littoral operations," says MBDA, identifying vessels with a displacement of up to 500t.

MBDA's receipt of the new contract supports the UK's Team Complex Weapons initiative, and also advances the company's objective to increase equipment co-operation between the French and UK armed forces.

This already includes its Scalp EG/Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile family and the ship-launched Aster 15/Sea Viper air defence weapon system.

The development of the new anti-ship weapon will result in MBDA offering two such systems to export customers. The company's Italian business already produces the Marte Mk 2 missile family, with the more than 300kg type suitable for carriage by types including the NH90 and AgustaWestland's AW101.

The UK also intends to buy a FASGW (Light) weapon for its Lynx Wildcat, with the Thales-developed lightweight multirole missile having emerged as a likely solution.

Source: Flight International