MBDA to display its offering of world-beating missiles at Defexpo 2022 - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 26 February 2022

MBDA to display its offering of world-beating missiles at Defexpo 2022

The Meteor air-to-air missile is only the latest in India's arsenal of world-beating MBDA missiles


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 26th Feb 22


The Indian Air Force (IAF) has gone to numerous combat aircraft designers for the fighters in its fleet. The Rafale is the seventh fighter aircraft type the IAF operates. However, when it comes to missiles – which constitute a combat aircraft’s real firepower – the IAF has repeatedly returned to MBDA for both its air-to-air and air-to-ground missile requirements.


The latest example is in arming the Rafale, the IAF’s newest fighter. It carries what MBDA calls a “truly game changing set of weapons from MBDA – the revolutionary Meteor beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile, the MICA air combat missile and SCALP deep strike missile.”


Three successive IAF chiefs have publicly stated that had the IAF flown the Rafale with its MBDA missiles the day the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated to the Balakote strikes, the IAF would have imposed a heavy cost on the PAF fleet.


Given MBDA’s long relationship with the IAF, few would dispute its statement on Saturday that “Over [the last 50 years]… many tens of thousands of MBDA-designed missiles have been built in India and we continue to deepen and deliver on new programmes.”


Almost every major European fighter aircraft type carries one or more MBDA missile. The Rafale – both the land and marine versions – is armed with the Meteor, which is the world’s longest-range air-to-air missile. That would allow the Rafale to fire a Meteor at an enemy aircraft well before the enemy fighter can engage the Rafale.


According to MBDA: “Key to Meteor’s performance is its throttle-able ramjet engine, active radar seeker an­­d datalink.” The ability to fly faster, for longer and manoeuvre more sharply than other air-to-air missiles give the Meteor a “no-escape zone” (the arc in which the target aircraft cannot evade the missile) many times greater than any of its competitors.


MBDA plans to display a full-scale Meteor missile in Defexpo 2022, between March 10-13 at Gandhinagar.


The IAF’s Rafales also carry the shorter-range MICA air-to-air missile. This is also being fitted onto the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft fleet in its on-going upgrade programme. 


MBDA claims the MICA is the world’s only air-to-air missile that features two interoperable seekers – active radar and imaging infrared. That allows the MICA to be used in close-in, fighter-to-fighter dogfights as well as in the BVR role. 


When fired in the BVR mode, the MICA flies much of the distance to the enemy aircraft in passive mode – i.e. without radiating radar waves, which alert the adversary. The seeker starts radiating only in the final stages of its approach, when the enemy aircraft has no time to take evasive manoeuvres or to deploy effective countermeasures. 


A third MBDA missile is the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which MBDA says “is being delivered to the IAF as its New Generation Close Combat Missile programme,” that will arm the IAF’s upgraded Jaguar fleet, and potentially the Hawk advanced jet trainer. It is also a part of the Gripen E weapons suite.


“With its large rocket motor, and clean aerodynamic design, ASRAAM has unrivalled speed and resultant aerodynamic manoeuvrability and range… that delivers superior end-game performance for within visual range (WVR) air combat,” states MBDA. 


For striking ground targets, IAF Rafales carry the French SCALP deep-strike cruise missile. This stealthy weapon can strike hardened and protected targets deep inside enemy territory from stand-off ranges, i.e. without the need for the Rafale to enter hostile airspace, which could be heavily defended with air defence missiles. The SCALP has the capability to create havoc at the target end, due to its powerful tandem warhead and multiple detonation modes.


Also on display in Defexpo 2022 will be the Mistral man portable air defence system (MANPADS), which MBDA says has “performed exceptionally well in firing evaluation trials for India.”


Mistral has already been selected and integrated into India’s indigenous armed helicopters, including the Rudra and the Light Combat Helicopters (LCH). Three versions of the Mistral will be displayed in Gandhinagar: the helicopter launched version, the very short range air defence manpack version and a third version for naval warships.


Finally, MBDA has sold India the Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile, which arms the Scorpene submarines. Another version, the Exocet AM39, can be launched from maritime patrol aircraft, strike fighters such as the Rafale and medium to heavyweight helicopters.


  1. The Exocet missiles have been proven to be very effective in the past, but how have they evolved for the present? Has the range of the missiles improved? I presume that the Rafale M only uses the Exocet AM39 in the naval strike role.
    I wonder how the Scorpene submarine can launch a simultaneous twin attack with the Exocet SM-39 and heavyweight torpedo on a naval target.

  2. Three successive IAF chiefs have publicly stated that had the IAF flown the Rafale with its MBDA missiles the day the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated to the Balakote strikes, the IAF would have imposed a heavy cost on the PAF fleet.
    # could have, should have, would have .... this is the persistent whinge of our faujis. so we keep splashing out on newer, fancier toys, electronic games, video parlour machines for them, they in turn tell the babus [and netas] that the new armed forces is about technology, electronics, cutting edge engineering and accordingly salaries, perquisites have to be matched to attract those who now prefer the corporate sector, going abroad rather than the officer corps. mercifully our principal adversary are our own consanguine, albeit now in west punjab, but as much given to swagger, swank, posturing, and incompetence. so whether we have all of 'janes - all the worlds weapons systems' or only the indian national small arms system, the outcome will merely be another communal riot with tanks. will we plant more lentils, dals, beans to restore health to our depleted, denuded arable lands and provide protein for our people while also restoring the water table; will we breed and distribute across the country our own sahiwal and other desi cattle to produce rich, yellow, creamy milk for our children to be nourished; clean up our slums, and urban chaos, get our administrative and police service to stop chasing photo-ops, social media and do some public service, administration to bring back the civic world that was the harappan civilisation with well planned grids of streets, water supply, drainage, public amenities like its great bath; get our 88,000 MB,BS graduating every year to stop swarming to anglosphere [for work in those countries inner city ghettos, rust bucket towns, facing racial slurs] by setting up a PHC in every gram panchayat with bungalow, cottages for the resident doctor, nurse, pharmacist; get our engineers to prefer to be entrepreneurs at home rather than drive taxis abroad; more and more university graduates to choose the quiet, rewarding life of the school teacher in the mofussil renouncing the anguish, frustration of unemployment. now this would be ram rajya, om shanti.


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