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We are confident that Mistral offers the best technical and operational solution to India’s requirements with regard to the other competitors
Country Head, MBDA, Loïc Piedevache
Loïc Piedevache What are the main challenges for the armed forces while defending their country’s air space, specifically in this age of high-end technology?
The threat from the air has been growing over recent years with a new generation of stealthy combat jets, advanced cruise missiles, and of course, a new generation of ballistic missiles. Aircraft obviously have a role to play but on their own, they do not offer the necessary permanence nor the ability to provide the necessary geographical coverage. This is where surface-to-air defence systems are so important. For this to be fully effective, a networked system of radars, launchers and C2 units have to be put in place to cover several layers of defence — lower, medium and higher levels — to create a series of defence ‘bubbles’.

What are the new technologies that MBDA is developing to handle the next generation air defence requirements?
MBDA is well known for its range of air defence systems and is currently responsible for the only European missile that has proven itself capable of defeating the ballistic missile threat. This is, of course, the Aster missile which is in service in its ground based variant with the French and Italian armed forces (these two countries also deploy Aster in its naval variant as does the UK’s Royal Navy and a number of export customers). Another major milestone for Aster occurred in 2013 when the Aster systems of France and Italy were deployed in a test firing against a theatre-ballistic missile target within a NATO standard communications environment. This configuration was similar to that which would be the future NATO ATBM mission, under the aegis of the alliance’s Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme. MBDA is currently looking at an Aster Block 1 New Technologies (NT) evolution which will feature a new seeker (among other developments) to better detect, pursue and intercept higher speed ballistic targets, particularly those with a longer range of around 1,500km.

Of course, MBDA’s portfolio includes a number of other highly effective systems covering the other layers of the air defence umbrella. For the very short range we have Mistral Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) which we are offering for India’s Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) programme.

Medium and Extended Air Defence System (MEADS) is a well-known programme around the world and has seen MBDA bring its international cooperative skills to play, this time with a transatlantic partner, Lockheed Martin. In Germany, MBDA has been working on a laser weapon system capable of providing a low cost solution with low collateral risk, to counter rockets, artillery and mortar shells. In a test carried out in 2012, a laser demonstrator successfully acted on an airborne target at a range of well over 2,000m.

Another new development is Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SR-SAM) which has been well covered in the Indian and global press. Here, MBDA has been bringing its extensive skills in the air defence domain to support this Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-led project for a new generation of short range air defence system for the Indian Navy, air force, and possibly the army.

In your assessment, which of those technologies would be ideally suited for a country like India?
SR-SAM is obviously a vital requirement and we hope that this programme will soon be launched. Similarly, there is a real need to organise an effective VSHORAD capability – again with Mistral MANPADS having shown its paces we would hope that we have proven its credentials as a viable solution.

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