The UK and French Governments have various issues to overcome in order to complete the FC/ASW missile project, according to a joint report published today.
The FC/ASW project seeks to develop a new generation of deep strike and anti-ship missiles by 2030, replacing the capabilities hitherto provided by Harpoon and Exocet (anti-ship missiles) and SCALP/Storm Shadow (deep strike missiles).
According to the Defence Committee:
“The report, drafted and agreed by both Committees, marks the culmination of the first joint Inquiry between a House of Commons Committee and a Committee of a non-UK legislature.
The Inquiry, which is a new step in UK-French inter-parliamentary cooperation on defence and national security matters, has focused on one of the most ambitious products of the Lancaster House Agreement signed between the UK and French Governments in 2010 – the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme.”
The joint Inquiry, which included joint evidence sessions in London and Paris, found that – while good progress had been made in the ‘concept phase’ to date – several key issues need to be resolved in order for the FC/ASW programme to continue after 2020. These issues include:
- The approach the MoD chooses to take in filling the ‘capability gap’ that will emerge when Harpoon retires from service in 2023. The MoD will need to decide whether to opt for a short-term ‘bridging capability’ to see the UK through to the coming into service of the FC/ASW, or a longer-term replacement capability that could call the FC/ASW into question. The joint report urges the MoD to balance carefully the savings that could be made from a longer-term off-the-shelf replacement for Harpoon against the potential costs to the UK’s industrial base as well as to its defence relationship with France if FC/ASW were not to proceed;
- The necessity of achieving convergence on key operational requirements – especially on whether the FC/ASW programme should give precedence to supersonic or stealth missile technology;
- The procurement process for the FC/ASW programme post-2020, including safeguards to ensure value for money if MBDA is awarded the main contract without competition; and
- Interoperability of the FC/ASW with platforms deployed by the UK’s and France’s allies in NATO.
While the joint report notes that there is a risk of FC/ASW not proceeding after 2020, it emphasises that there is still ample time for differences to be ironed out. The two Committees express confidence that these issues “can be resolved amicably and successfully”.