Wednesday, June 9, 2010

MBDA Eyes Stronger Ties With India

NEW DELHI — European missile manufacturer
MBDA says it will transfer all the “sensitive” technology India requires to produce the Maitri short-range, surface-to-air-missile, such as the seeker and thrust vector control system. India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will be prime on the project, with Bharat Dynamics Ltd. as the production partner.
The choice of radar will be an Indian one.
This is the first co-development by MBDA outside of its core partner countries. “Ours is an open strategic partnership, which is not the case [with] others,” says Loic Piedevache, head of MBDA in India, perhaps referring to the agreement by India and Israel for a longer-range version of the extended-range Barak ship defense system for the Indian Air Force.
MBDA is looking at 30 projects in India, ranging from the request for information
(RFI) stage to active trials. They include M-2000, SM-39 Exocets (36 Nos) for Scorpene submarines, and the ATAM (Air-To-Air Missile) for the Advance Light Helicopter (ALH).
Having won the ATAM (84 Nos) project for the ALH in 2006 for the army and the air force, the first firing has been performed using mock-ups. “We are waiting for live firing at the end of the year,” Piedevache says. Based on the Mistral 2 “fire-and-forget” miswith its advanced infrared seeker, the ATAM was developed by MBDA as the first helicopter-borne air-to-air missile system.
“We hope the ATAM will be fitted on the Light Combat Helicopter when it is ready, as there will be commonality in the equipment, benches, [and] spares,” Piedevache says.
ATAM is lightweight, providing the capability to intercept both helicopters and fighter aircraft at a range of up to 6.5 km. (4 mi.).
MBDA says it is in discussion with the Indian Defense Ministry for offsets for the Mica missile as part of the Mirage 2000 upgrade. Jaguars (100) are also on offer for the upgrade of the advanced short-range air-to-air missile (Asraam). The Indian
air force wants to replace the Matra R550 Magic-II short-range missile with Asraam missiles. The year-old RFP is under technical evaluation.
Meanwhile, an agreement was signed in December last year with MDL to transfer production of the Milan anti-tank missile to India.
Piedevache says India is the biggest in terms of priority and “will soon become part of the MBDA structure. We don’t want to be a supplier but want to be involved in co-production, indigenization and have a footprint here. India is the fifth pillar in our structure after the four domestic countries [U.K., France, Italy, and Germany.]”
MBDA will announce its joining with a local partner by end of the year, Piedevache says. “[The] private sector has industrial capacity,” he says. “Many of them want to be in the missile sector and are looking for tie-ups. Our cooperation agreement
will be after we get approval of the French government to locally develop and transfer design and production.”

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