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RPM on target for French Tigers

The French army's Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters should gain a new semi-active laser-guided rocket capability later this decade, following successful early firings conducted from a HAP-standard aircraft earlier this year.

Developed by Thales subsidiary TDA, the roquette à précision métrique (RPM) is a 68mm (2.7in) diameter weapon offering a circular error of probability accuracy of below 1m (3.3ft), from a maximum firing range of up to 3.2nm (6km).

Two safe separation firing campaigns were performed in January and April 2013 over the Biscarrosse test range of France's DGA defence procurement agency, with another test of the roughly 8.5kg (18.7lb) rocket due to be conducted during July.

"The idea is for a low collateral damage capability," says Matthieu Krouri, guided rocket programme manager at TDA. "Twenty metres away from the target there is no effect," he adds. Already spanning more than three years, study work has been funded by the company and the French defence ministry.

At just over 1.4m in length, slightly longer than the TDA-supplied unguided rockets already sold to Tiger operators Australia, France, Germany and Spain, the RPM requires no physical connection with its launcher unit, due to the use of wireless induction technology.

The mid-year test is to include two launches against a fixed target being marked by a laser spot. TDA says the weapon is also capable of striking ground targets moving at up to 30kt (55km/h).

"We are discussing with the DGA for a contract," Krouri says, with a production version of the RPM expected to be operationally available with the Tiger from 2018. The rocket's insensitive munition-standard blast/fragmentation warhead and fuze are being developed separately, under another contract from the agency.

Speaking during a pre-Paris air show media event at the DGA's Cazaux flight test centre on 14 May, Krouri said the weapon also offers a viable solution for a long-held French air force requirement to field a low-yield weapon between the Dassault Rafale's internal cannon and Sagem AASM air-to-surface missile. The company has previously performed a ground-based firing trial to prove the viability of firing the RPM from a 12-tube rocket launcher.

If deployed from the Rafale, the precision-strike weapon could achieve a range of up to 5.4nm, TDA says.

The company also plans to offer the same terminal guidance kit, rocket motor, warhead and fuze for integration with 2.75in diameter rockets, Krouri says.

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