PARIS --- In a Feb. 19 interview to Les Echos, France’s leading business newspaper, the chief executive of European missile manufacturer MBDA, Antoine Bouvier, provided some insights into the notional weapons that will be needed for the next-generation French-German fighter aircraft.
The original interview, by Anne Bauer (in French), can be found here. The excerpt below was translated by Defense-Aerospace.com.
Q: Could the Franco-British program for a new cruise missile be called into question?
A: No, the importance of this project FMAN / FMC [Future Missile Anti-Navire / Futur Missile de Croisière in French and Future Cruise Missile / Anti-Ship Weapon (FCM / ASW) in English] has just been highlighted by a parliamentary report that brings together deputies of the National Assembly and the House of Commons.
This joint report confirms that this program is structuring since it involves the renewal of all the depth and anti-ship strike capabilities of the two countries. This program is to replace the current Scalp, Storm Shadow, Exocet and Harpoon missiles.
One hundred million euros were released in March 2017 for initial studies, with the stated aim of signing in 2020 -- year of the 10th anniversary of the Lancaster House Treaty -- the pre-development contract.
Q: But division already reigns, since London wants to lead its future Tempest future fighter project against the Franco-German SCAF project. For whom is MBDA working?
A: MBDA UK is working on the Tempest project, BAE's future aircraft project, while MBDA France, Germany and Spain are working for the Future Air Combat System (SCAF) led by Dassault and Airbus. As long as these projects are conducted in parallel, the MBDA teams will work in separate settings. If the two programs converge one day, which I hope, MBDA will become the cement between the two teams.
Q: How will the SCAF be armed?
A: SCAF will have to be able to take the future Franco-British cruise missile and the successor of the Meteor air-to-air missile. We are also studying a new type of unpowered air-to-ground weapon, the "SmartGlider", which will integrate artificial intelligence functions and innovative penetration strategies against enemy anti-aircraft defenses. We are also considering "Remote Carriers", which will provide interception, sensor or communication functions. And we will also continue work on laser weapons.
Q: Do you believe in the development of laser weapons?
A: It depends on which applications. They will be useful for very short-range surface-to-air defense, and will also have naval applications against drones, small boats attackers or for defense missions by blinding attackers. In lasers, Europe has accumulated delays, essentially compared to the United States, which has invested heavily in this technology since the [Reagan-era] "Star Wars.”
Q: How to circumvent future anti-aircraft defenses?
A: To achieve this, we must find the right combination of speed, stealth, maneuverability and the saturation of the opposing defenses. These four elements will guide the technical solutions for the FMAN / FMC.
The SmartGlider will focus on saturation functions, while MBDA in France has initiated research on hypersonics, particularly for the fourth-generation missile, ASN4G, which will eventually replace the ASMP (Air-to-Ground Medium- Range) missile currently used for nuclear deterrence by the air force.