The ability to strike and destroy or neutralise targets such as military and economic infrastructures with metric precision from extended stand-off ranges has become a key operational requirement.
MBDA’s experience in this area has already been proven with the development and entry into service of the Storm Shadow / SCALP air-launched cruise missile. However, to provide modern armed forces with the added flexibility of a deep strike capability from a mix of air and naval platforms MBDA is now developing MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval - Naval cruise missile).
Following the operational requirement, MBDA has been contracted by the French DGA (Délégation Générale pour l’Armement) to provide the French Navy with a long-range cruise missile capable of being launched from surface ships and submarines.
The new weapon system will provide a deep strike capability that can be delivered from platforms that, unlike aircraft, can be pre-positioned in theatre remaining there for extended periods if necessary and can impose their presence on several theatres of operations simultaneously.
The strategic implications and messages communicated to a potential foe are clear during a phase of force build up or as a warning/preventative measure in the face of threatened aggression. Operations could also include protection against threat proliferation as well as force projection.
Significantly, MdCN will provide the ability to strike rapidly and strike first while minimising collateral damage. Submarine launch of course provides the option of a furtive, surprise attack thereby avoiding potential retaliation. Of course even the knowledge that a submarine armed with such a long range capability could be lurking unseen some way off the coast could have the desired psychological effect.
MdCN benefits from the air-launched experience and equipment developed during the Storm Shadow / SCALP programme with obvious cost and technology advantages to the customer. The new missile draws from the functional architecture of the air-launched variant with commonalities in cruise and terminal phase.
Mission planning for both naval and air variants of the MBDA cruise missile family is very similar, optimising the combined deployment from different platforms should this be called for by the mission in hand.
MdCN will be vertically launched from France’s future FREMM frigates using the A70 Sylver vertical launcher which is also capable of housing other MBDA missiles such as the ASTER family of air-defence missiles. On France’s future Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarines, MdCN will be launched through the torpedo tubes.
In December 2006, MBDA received the notification from the DGA of the development and production contract for MdCN.
The first trials started in 2008. Aerodynamic trials were completed at the ONERA wind tunnel facility in Modane, France and various aspects of the system were validated such as general missile architecture, launch platform interfaces and mission planning.
The first test firing of the MdCN missile was carried out successfully by the French DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) in May 2010. This successful test firing, carried out using a FREMM frigate configuration from a A70 Sylver launcher, validated the weapon system’s definition as well as the technology options selected by MBDA.
In June 2011, in another significant advance for the MdCN programme, the first submarine launch was carried out by the French DGA. In July 2012, the first complete firing of the MdCN missile took place. Representing a frigate launch, this third development firing by the DGA saw the missile following a pre-planned course before striking its land target thereby displaying the high level of precision provided by the weapon’s autonomous terminal guidance system. July 2013 saw the first qualification test firing successfully taking place.. This latest firing, again carried out by the DGA, was representative of a launch from a FREMM frigate.
FREMM is expected to be equipped with the MdCN system as of 2014 and Barracuda as of 2017.