The American subsidiary of European munitions maker MBDA has acquired Northrop Grumman's Viper Strike business as the first step in a broader push to expand deeper into the US defence market.

The acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, immediately gives MBDA an active production line building 20kg (44lb) GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions for the US Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.

The Viper Strike is also poised to compete for major new orders as the marines and the US Army plan to arm thousands of AAI RQ-7 Shadows and other tactical unmanned air systems (UAS).

In the long term, MBDA also gains a production facility certified to handle live explosives, said Jerry Agee, chairman and chief executive of the US-based MBDA Inc subsidiary.

Acquiring Northrop's munitions factory allows MBDA to escape a long and costly process to win approval for a new site, he said. The Viper Strike factory at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, also gives MBDA a local base to produce other weapons for the Department of Defense, he said.

MBDA has targeted the US defence market for growth for several years. It gained a foothold in the region with the US Air Force Boeing GBU-39 small diameter bomb, supplying Diamond Back wingkits.

But the company has exhibited several more products, including the Saber small tactical munition, Zuni guided rocket and the Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missile, at US trade shows.

The newly acquired Viper Strike business will add to MBDA's widening geographic distribution in the US.

An advanced design and limited production facility is operational in California, and MBDA Inc's headquarters is in Washington DC.

Source: Flight International