Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart have signed an agreement to explore future long range weapons for the British and French Navies and Air Forces.
The missile however will not be ready to replace Harpoon until 2030, leaving British frigates without any real means to engage surface warships aside from their helicopters.
Signed during a visit by M. Collet-Billon to the Ministry of Defence, the agreement begins a three year concept phase to develop future long range weapons for the British and French Navies and Air Forces.
Each country will contribute £50 million to this phase.
The Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon programme will look at options to replace and improve existing Naval and Air Force weapons systems in the next decade. Lasting up to three years, this will help to define the missile designs and reduce risks to inform decisions about the next stage of the programme
Alongside sharing costs, both sides will reportedly benefit from access to each other’s national technology expertise, trials and test facilities.
Minister of Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:
“Our relationship with France is strong and enduring. We have a long history of cooperation in defence and security with our European Ally.
As demonstrated by having Europe’s largest defence budget, the UK is committed to European security and we will continue to collaborate on joint defence programmes across the continent. Today’s agreement will sustain 80 jobs in the UK.”
Délégué Général pour l’Armement Laurent Collet-Billon said:
“We are launching today a major new phase in our bilateral cooperation, by planning together a generation of missiles, successor to the Harpoon, SCALP and Storm Shadow. The FC/ASW (future cruise/anti-ship weapon) programme’s aim is to have by around 2030 a new generation of missiles.
This future capability is strategic, industrially as well as operationally. This new programme will be the backbone of our “one complex weapon” initiative.”
According to a press release:
“UK-French cooperation already covers a wide range of fields beyond the FC/ASW programme, including research emerging from the partnership on innovation and missile technologies (MCM-ITP), work to align our capability plans, development and production centred on the Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) and the mid-life update programme of the SCALP/Storm Shadow missile systems.”
This new project further strengthens MBDA’s industrial optimisation building on their new Centres of Excellence.
Harriett Baldwin had indicated earlier in the year that options for replacing the Harpoon anti-ship missile are ‘being considered’.
“The Harpoon system currently carried by the Royal Navy will reach its out of service date in 2018.
As part of a process of continuously reviewing the capabilities required to deliver their tasking, the Royal Navy is working alongside other areas of the Ministry of Defence to consider options for a Harpoon replacement.
I am withholding further detail as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.”
The minister added later:
“The Royal Navy is, of course, continuously assessing the capabilities it requires, and work is ongoing across the Department to consider the options for the Harpoon replacement.”
The Royal Navy is to lose its anti-ship missile capability in 2018 when the Harpoon missile is withdrawn.
While the fleet will still have an anti-ship capability via the submarine fleet and embarked helicopters, this will still be a significant capability gap. Harpoon missiles are unlikely to be replaced for up to a decade.