March 8, 2012 Saurabh Joshi - stratpost.com
The French defense company MBDA is planning to display a wide range of weapons systems from its product line at DefExpo, including the Mistral VSHORAD, the Mistral ATAM for the Indian Army’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv Mk IV WSI (Weapons System Integrated), as well as their PARS 3 LR anti-tank guided missile system, which is also being considered for the Dhruv.
MBDA is proposing the Mistral as a solution for India’s VSHORAD requirement to replace the existing Igla systems. MBDA says, the Mistral missile has a 96% kill probability over 4, 000 firings and can be effective against ‘a host of air threats, ranging from cruise missiles and combat jets flying at supersonic speeds to pop-up helicopters’. It is operated by 39 customers in 27 countries and can be fired from launchers mounted on tripod, vehicle, naval platform and helicopters.
A company statement quoted MBDA India country head, Loïc Piedevache, as saying, “Our stated strategy in India is to link and to work with local industry and to advance technology transfer wherever feasible. So should Mistral MANPADS be selected, we are exceptionally well positioned to get local production capability of the Mistral missile up and running as soon as required. This could of course be a single Mistral production line in India for both the Dhruv’s air–to-air Mistral ATAM system which is currently being integrated and for the surface to air requirement”.
The fire-and-forget PARS 3 LR is being pitched to service the air-to-ground requirement of the Dhruv helicopter. MBDA says the system has been ‘developed for engaging mobile and stationary targets equipped with the latest generation of armor protection, field fortresses, bunkers and other high-value targets.’
While the German Army’s Eurocopter Tiger helicopters operate a quad launcher for the PARS 3 LR, the Indian requirement is for a twin-launcher, currently being designed with Indian industrial partners. Piedevache says, “We are already working closely with an Indian company on the design of a specific PARS launcher for the Dhruv. Should we get the go ahead, another Indian partner will be lined up to carry out launcher production”.
A full-scale model of MBDA’s Medium Range Air Defense missile, ASTER 30, will also be on display. The missile, which is operationally deployed on ground and naval platforms in three countries, is said to offer ‘high-level tactical and strategic mobility and with its high rate of fire is capable of countering the most demanding of saturating threats’.
The company says the ASTER 30 can pull up to 60 G plus an additional 12 G lateral acceleration ‘automatically commanded by the missile in order to achieve a direct hit on the target’. The French Air Force used it to successfully intercept a ‘target representative of a ballistic missile’ last November.
The company is also putting up a model of its response to the Indian Army Request for Proposal for Loitering Munition, the Fire Shadow. Ordered by the British Army, the MBDA says it can be ‘targeted by a range of ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) systems, for example a forward observer with binoculars or a sophisticated system such as a UAV and is surface launched from a highly mobile launch unit’.
The Fire Shadow is a platoon or company level precision weapon that brings the human element into the picture, targeting ‘time-sensitive ground targets’ in the ‘absence of readily available air-support’. , The system satisfies the requirement to have man-in-the-loop control in the complex battlefield in the fog of war, ‘where the target might only make fleeting appearances before taking cover’.
MBDA says the Fire Shadow can fly directly to the target and carry out its precision strike at ranges of greater than 100km. ‘However, what makes Fire Shadow special is that should the intended target disappear, or should the operator decide to delay the attack until further target information becomes available, the weapon can be positioned to loiter over the suspected target area for around six hours. An operator remains in permanent control of Fire Shadow from a control centre using special software that provides real-time situational awareness, vital for complex urban scenarios where collateral damage could be an issue’.
MBDA will also be showing off the anti-ship missiles like the entire Exocet family, which includes surface, submarine and air-launched variants, with the latest variant, the Exocet MM40 Block 3 with its 170 km range and littoral land attack capability. The Exocet SM39 has already been ordered for India’s Scorpene submarines. MBDA has sold around 4,000 of this family to global customers.
A little smaller, the French company’s Marte MK2/S, with its active RF seeker for maritime targets at ranges of 30 to 40 kilometers, though suitable for fixed-wing aircraft depending on altitude, has been optimized for the NH90 helicopter, which is competing in the Indian Navy tender for Multi Role Helicopters (MRH).
Besides these, also on display will be the MICA, already being purchased by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the Mirage 2000 upgrade, the ASRAAM, on offer for the IAF’s Jaguar aircraft, the Dual Mode Brimstone and the Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missile which earned a name for themselves in the Libya operations, last year, in addition to the Meteor BVR (Beyond Visual Range) air to air missile