The French Navy now has at its disposal a new sea-based deep-strike capability. The first MdCN naval cruise missiles quietly entered service in February as part of the combat systems carried by the force’s first FREMM multi-mission frigates.
Six FREMMs to carry cruise missiles by 2019
The French fleet will soon count three FREMM frigates armed with MdCN cruise missiles, the first of their type to be developed in Europe. The Aquitaine and Provence followed by the Languedoc which is scheduled to enter service in a few weeks. By 2019, these three will be joined by the Auvergne, the Bretagne and the Normandie. Each FREMM frigate will be equipped with two A70 eight-cell vertical-launch silos for a total of 16 MdCN missiles designed, developed and produced in France by MBDA.
The first cruise missile developed in Europe was fired for the first time by FREMM frigate Aquitaine in May 2015. This qualification firing was followed by other tests and trials until MBDA was in a position to deliver production missiles for operational deployment.
Designed to knock out remote land targets
The MdCN is based on the Scalp EG air-launched cruise missile now in service with Mirage 2000 and Rafale combat aircraft deployed by the French Air Force and Rafale Marine aircraft carried by the Navy’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. The naval version is 7 metres long, including the booster, and weighs 2 tonnes. This fire-and-forget missile deploys its wings after leaving the launcher then flies at around 1,000km/h using multiple modes of navigation.
The guidance system combines inertial navigation, a radio-altimeter and a GPS receiver enabling the missile to fly a precise course at low altitude. During the approach phase, an IR seeker guides the warhead to within a metre or so of its target. The MdCN carries an advanced warhead designed to knock out strategic targets in hardened shelters.
While the weapon’s precise range remains a military secret, trade sources suggest that it is at least 1,000km. Vessels armed with MdCN missiles will be able to strike strategic targets deep inside enemy territory with unprecedented precision from a safe stand-off distance. For example, a ship off Cyprus could readily knock out a target near, say, Mosul in northern Iraq. (end of excerpt)
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