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”.

34 COMMENTS

  1. An Anglo-French defence project with “issues to overcome”. To most of us who contribute to this site this will come as a shock…ho ho ho to coin a phrase. When are we going to stop messing about with European projects that are completely pointless, considering that there are two alternatives with the up grading of Harpoon and the Norwegian J S M sat waiting for us to move on them.

    • Hardly there are decisions to be made no surprise there, this project needs to go ahead for both the UK and French industries to survive within the MBDA construct and is good for all.

    • I was stunned to read this. Afterall Anglo-French co-operation has been so successful in the past? (Note to self: It is waste of time and good paper attempting to design and or build anything with the French. Not far behind are the Germans.)

  2. It’s funny. France, Italy, and Germany all develop their own kit. The other nations just, for the most part, buy American. We always choose the worst of all options.

    • Like almost all Western nations except the US, they develop some of their own kit, and import others, just like us. France, Italy, and Germany all use a mix of domestic, European, and American hardware, the same as we do. Collaboration is also incredibly common, with Typhoon, Tornado, Merlin, FREMM, Horizon, Boxer, and many more.

      FC/ASW is a prime example of a golden opportunity to collaborate. Aside from us and France both needing a new generation of anti-ship missiles replace outdated weapons, its in a market with a lot of potential. The West is severely lacking in advanced AShMs: vintage Harpoon and Exocet are standard, with the newest offerings of LRASM and NSM still being subsonic. If Perseus meets its current performance goals of Mach 5, stealthy, and both Mk41 and SYLVER capable, it could become the NATO gold standard.

    • America buys plenty of foreign tech and all of the countries you mentioned buy foreign as well (mostly American). Hell, Italy is a freaking F-35 partner.

    • You mean such as the German brand new Baden-Württemberg-class frigate, which not only lists 1.3 deg. to starboard and requires massive ballast on the port side to prevent it capsizing? Also with massive hardware and sofware issues in her operations room? The ship has now been returned to the builders – a first.

  3. The French have obviously got all the research they need to leave and go off to create their own product made purely by them. With the lack of funding our side, they will get to market first and take all the exports. Waiting for this to happen….

    • The French have no money either, Marcon just handed out €10bn in give aways. From the article it looks like its the UK causing the problems as our anti ship missiles go out of date before theirs do, also the French have invested more in anti ship and cruise missile technology than we have so to be fair to them, they are bringing more to the table than we are.
      I’m surprised they didnt try to cut us out of this one as well and join up with Germany but they don’t seem to be interested in developing offensive weaponry.

      • The French truly have no money and a buggered country in so many ways, whereas we have the money but have a totally different issue; that is of total political apathy towards defence

  4. The article states “whether the FC/ASW programme should give precedence to supersonic or stealth missile technology”.
    If stealth missile technology is given precedence, then will FCASW be a subsonic missile along the lines of LRASM?
    I thought that the performance goal was for a mach 5 hypersonic missile as “supersonic” seems to contradict this. Isn’t Perseus meant to be powered by a ramjet sourced from Bayer-Chemie? Can Perseus reach mach 5 using a ramjet or will a scramjet be required?

    • It’s rather iffy at the moment. Mach 5 is the boundary between what NASA defined as supersonic and hypersonic, but given that Perseus is very much just a concept at this stage, it’s probably safer to aim for supersonic rather than hypersonic. It is highly probable, however, that the final result is going to be at least Mach 2 or 3, even if stealth is given precedence.

      To answer your other question: the current Perseus concept is for a ramjet. From some cursory research, this lends a lot of credence to Perseus ending up around Mach 3, as this is apparently the most efficient speed for the type, and there are severa existing Russian ramjet AShMs in the same range and speed class. This doesn’t rule out the current Mach 5 target, as ramjets are capable of up to Mach 6, but more modern Russian weapons capable of Mach 5+ are scramjet powered

  5. There will always be a trade off between speed and range which is why I’m not really sure how much of the Brahmos specs to believe, they claim it has a range of 450 km at mach 3. If that is true then it looks like our anti ship missile capability is over 20 years behind India and Russia. An in service of 2030 is not good enough.

  6. I suspect there’s also a trade off between speed and stealth once you start taking the possible speed up to Mach 5 hypersonic levels where even head-on heat signatures are probably quite significant and you’re starting to get atmospheric ionisation too which might be another was to effect detection.

    Possibly to counter that a missile might do a slower stealth approach to a target (creep up on it) and only go hypersonic in the terminal phase when there is too little time to do an intercept and when added kinetic energy would be useful to increase the destructive effect. Possibly it might also go hypersonic if it knows it has been detected since at that point it has nothing to lose and added speed would make an interception at least more difficult although no longer effectively impossible as it would have been when the missile was still undetected. Obviously that go-fast-if-discovered decision would also have to factor in its distance to target to make sure it had enough fuel for a longer faster close on the target.

  7. Honestly, I think it’s worth making a bit of compromise to push this over the line. I don’t know loads about the Eurofighter breakup w.r.t France, but it seems to me that all of the bits they wanted and we didn’t, they put on Rafale (carrier-ops capable, AESA radar, ground strike capability from the start). Now we’re playing catch up to bolt all of those things onto Eurofighter, and our own military and export opportunities have suffered as a result.
    I’m all for protecting our manufacturing share, but it proved very short sighted to refuse all of the development suggestions the French wanted. Hopefully that’ll be a bit of a lesson on this one.

    • Well working with France in the past has been more benefit to them than us but I think there is a new reality in Paris,they cannot afford to go it alone anymore and they want to work with the UK as the only realistic option outside the U.S. on operations.I was struck by how members of the MN talked about the RN describing it as our sister Navy.
      The split on Eurofighter was about France wanting a smaller aircraft that could fit on CdG and their insistence on using the poor M88 engine oh and controlling all export orders didn’t help.

      • Thanks for the additional insights, as I said, it’s not a subject I’m fully clued up on.
        Part of that unbalance of benefit is potentially as much due to UK’s lack of ability to bargain with the best of them as anything else: case in point all of this Brexit stuff. I shudder to think about future trade deals elsewhere…
        But back to the matter at hand: Fully stand by needing to maintain our manufacturing, and it looks like that was a deal breaker for France due to Dassault lobbying. I reckon we could probably have won them around on the engine if we’d made the concession for it to be carrier capable, and we’d have had a better aircraft. But clearly that wouldn’t have been enough if France wanted to be prime conrtactor rather than an equal party. It’s a shame that we threw the baby out with the bath water though, because France’s plan for a true multi-role fighter has probably helped them in sales and costs in the long run…
        I’m glad that the MN have a good opinion of the RN, and I hope it’s reciprocated. I understand that relationships between UK and US military are consistently strong regardless of the politics and which idiot happens to be in power at any given time, and I imagine/hope its the same between the UK and France. The time for old military rivalries is long gone, they did a good job in Libya and are doing a good one in Mali.

        • Well we didn’t do to bad with Typhoons,more export sales than France and its developing into the best 4th gen aircraft out there.I sometimes feel the services get on better than their respective governments certainly true now that idiot Trump is in power.

          • Agreed, I guess it’s only when comapred to massive US exports that it’s done badly. But I’d imagine that it would have won a few more and continue to do so if it had AESA and ground strike ability from the start…

  8. The UK has probably the best portfolio of missiles of any country in the world. This new weapon should complete that.

    That being said I think it’s a mistake to try and combine cruise missile and hypersonic anti ship missile. There is a need I think for two weapons, one a shorter range hypersonic weapon primarily designed for anti ship work and the second a long range stealthy cruise missile. Both weapons should be capable of performing anti ship work, DEAD and striking fixed targets. Ideally both weapons should be deployable from both ships and aircraft.

    • Personally I hope we end up with a single multi role weapon,there are not enough ships or launchers on them to have different role missiles it also reduces the number you need to order,simpler logistics training etc.
      The debate over speed or stealth is interesting, I would go for speed, advances in radar and AI is going to reduce its effectiveness over time.

      • This issue is you can’t have speed and range. 200Km is ok standoff range for a ship,to ship action or a aircraft but it’s little use for a submarine or ship attacking land targets.

        The US is developing LRASM ER/VLR and may also be secretly developing a LRAS B as was known which is a hypersonic weapon primarily designed for antiship work.

        Both weapons can share commonality in seeker technology etc but with different body and propulsion

  9. This is primarily a replacement for air launched Stormshadow and not Tomahawk.They have thrown in the Anti ship role as well quite rightly as multi role has to be the way forward for all sorts of reasons.The RAF will be driving this more than the RN as deep strike is under their area of responsibility so 350 or so miles is what I expect they want.There is also the issue of exportability too long a range will prevent this.
    People keep looking at this as a naval project it is not,the timing is all based around the out of service date of Stormshadow in 2030.

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