COLOGNE, Germany --- The defense chiefs of France, Belgium and Cyprus have signed an agreement to pursue a common anti-tank missile meant for wider adoption in Europe — an effort that puts the spotlight once again on accusations of protectionism in defense programs here.
The three defense ministers inked the cooperation deal for the Beyond-Line-of-Sight Land Battlefield missile project on the sidelines of a meeting of European defense chiefs in Helsinki, Finland, in late August. The goal is to develop a new “family” of missiles for integration on an “extensive variety of platforms,” according to the official project description. It would be operated by a “dedicated users’ club” under a common European doctrine for such weapons.
Pan-European missile company MBDA has claimed the project as its own since officials announced it under the Permanent Structured Cooperation framework, or PESCO, in fall 2018. The vendor wants to sell its Missile Moyenne Portée, or MMP, to other armies besides the French, eyeing a far-reaching partnership with Belgium on ground vehicles as a potential avenue.
Aside from being handed a potentially lucrative market on the continent, products or concepts picked as PESCO leads can win sizable funding contributions from common coffers like the envisioned €13 billion (U.S. $14 billion) European Defence Fund, or EDF.
MBDA executives have danced around the question of how they came to be the quasi-incumbent for the missile project, arguing that the company is the only eligible manufacturer because the weapon is wholly developed and made in Europe. At the same time, company officials coyly painted the selection of the MMP weapon as a decision still up in the air. (end of excerpt)
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