MBDA has received a long-term contract from the UK Ministry of Defence that will extend the production and sustainment of its improved Brimstone air-to-surface missile into the 2030s.
Announced on 27 March and valued at £400 million ($563 million), the capability sustainment programme deal will provide weapons for the Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoons, and potentially also equip rotorcraft and unmanned air vehicles.
"The new-build Brimstone missiles will incorporate all of the improved functionalities offered by the spiral upgrades that have taken place over recent years in order to meet UK operational requirements," MBDA says. These have included an enhanced dual-mode seeker and improved autopilot, while the future standard will also incorporate "a significant memory and processing update," it adds.
"Brimstone is expected in the future to be carried by the RAF's [General Atomics Aeronautical Systems] Protector RPAS [remotely piloted air system] and the British Army's new [Boeing AH-64E] Apache attack helicopters," MBDA says. While no contracts have yet been signed, MBDA UK managing director Chris Allam says: "We can do it quickly, and I would look for good progress on both of those during this year."
MBDA also believes Brimstone could be an option for arming France's General Atomics Reaper and future Euro MALE UAVs, and Airbus Helicopters Tiger attack rotorcraft. "I am confident that we will convince the French customer," says MBDA chief executive Antoine Bouvier.
But the company has revised its ambitions of selling Brimstone into the US market via its local subsidiary MBDA Inc.
Speaking during an annual results briefing in London on 27 March, Bouvier said that while the company had perceived Brimstone to be an ideal "gap-filler" for the US military, "for a number of reasons our solutions have proved to be wrong".
"We have reassessed our objectives and ambitions in the US, at a time when the US competition in Europe and in export markets has been even tougher," he says. "We have not in any way given up our objective to be present in the US in one form or another, but now give a higher priority to partnership with US primes."
MBDA reported orders totalling €4.2 billion (£5.1 billion) in 2017, with export deals having accounted for €2.6 billion of this sum. Pointing to a record year-end backlog of €16.8 billion – up €1.1 billion from 12 months earlier, chief financial officer Peter Bols says: "This was our fifth consecutive year where our book-to-bill [ratio] was greater than one."
"This provides us with the confidence to continue investing in capabilities, facilities, technologies and products."