European munitions maker MBDA is seeing promising potential in Asia-Pacific in the areas of air-delivered munitions and will be showcasing a number of new weapons for the first time in the region after successful live tests in the last two years.
“Asia continues to be a key area for MBDA, with an ever growing number of strategic campaigns for the company,” said Jean-Marc Peyraud, MBDA vice prresident Asia. “Recent years have seen a proliferation of advanced combat aircraft and stand-off capabilities in the region. Stand-off weaponry is the latest step in the constant arms race between offensive and defensive capabilities.”
After making its first overseas show at the Dubai Airshow, the SmartGlider guided weapon will appear for the first time in Asia-Pacific. Unveiled last year at the Paris Air Show, the SmartGlider is Europe’s answer to the Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The standard SmartGlider Light weighs 120 kg (265 pounds), and most combat jets can carry as many as 18. With a range up to 100 km (124 miles), it is designed to be launched from a Hexabomb Smart Launcher in high volumes to saturate air defenses. It is also available in a Heavy variant for a 1,000-kg (2,205-lb) warhead.
Also making a Singapore debut is the Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) precision strike missile, designed for the Lockheed Martin F-35.
“[Being] able to operate in complex scenarios over the sea is particularly acute in the region given the highly challenging littoral environment. It is for just such scenarios that MBDA’s Sea Venom/ANL anti-ship weapon has been developed and is being exhibited at the 2018 Singapore Airshow,” he added. It was recently reported that Singapore is considering a shore-based Sea Venom.
Other air-launched munitions that will be at the Singapore Airshow include the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, and the ASRAAM, which is available for Asian platforms like Korea’s KF-X and FA-50, according to Peyraud.
The firm has well established itself in Asia-Pacific in the surface-to-air missile (SAM) genre. Its Aster 15 and Sylver launchers are fitted on Singapore’s Formidable-class stealth frigates, and the city-state's armed forces will soon take delivery of the land-launched version. The VL MICA are installed on Malaysia Navy’s new Maharaja Lela-class Littoral Combat Ships, Indonesia’s Sigma 10514 frigates and also Singapore’s Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessels.
However, their current footprint in air-launched munitions is not as significant outside Europe and the Middle East. The ASRAAM is currently in service with Australia, and the Taurus System, a subsidiary of MBDA Germany, KEMP-350 stand-off missile, are fielded on South Korea’s Boeing F-15K Slam Eagles. Recent arms procurement in Asia has opted for American systems, with Japan announcing its intention to purchase the Lockheed Martin AGM-158B joint air-to-surface standoff missiles (JASSM-ERs) and AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASMs) for F-15J/DJ Eagles.
It first major breakthrough could have been Southeast Asia. MBDA and European plane makers had held their breath for the longest time with Malaysia’s Multi-Role Combat Aircraft program, but this acquisition plan will be shelved until after turn of the decade, until at least 2025. However, this could change with the Indian Air Force’s Rafale deal—packaged with the Storm Shadow/SCALP, along with the Brimstone and Meteor missile order—that was finalized in November 2017.
MBDA wants to be a leader in laser technology and continues to invest in innovation and research to keep up with the competition and demands. “MBDA has major research and development capabilities and currently has 15 new products in development, including laser weapon systems,” said Peyraud.
He said the Laser Directed Energy Weapon, known in the UK as the Dragonfire, will be shown at Singapore for the first time, after it was unveiled at the DSEI in September last year. Germany is testing the 40-50kW laser and could use it as a short-range air defense system against manned and unmanned aircraft and munitions.