David Oliver – MBDA held its annual UK press conference in London on 20 March when CEO Antoine Bouvier, chief financial officer Peter Bols and UK managing director Chris Allam reported on the company’s 2018 annual results and its vision for the future.
Peter Bols announced that MBDA saw another strong year of trading performance in 2018, recording a further $4.5 billion (€4.0bn) in orders that brought the company’s order book up to a record total of $19.5bn (€17.4bn). Revenue was also slightly ahead year-on-year to $3.6bn (€3.2bn).
Strong performance in our home markets saw MBDA’s domestic order intake of $2.8bn (€2.5bn) exceed that from exports at $1.7bn (€1.5bn).
Chris Allam highlighted the opening of MBDA UK’s new missile manufacturing facility in Bolton in July 2018 by UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Key missiles being produced at MBDA Bolton for the UK Armed Forces include Brimstone, ASRAAM, CAMM, SPEAR, and Meteor which has its final assembly for all six European partner nations.
The UK MoD awarded MBDA a $525 million (£400m) contract for the capability sustainment programme (CSP) of the advanced Brimstone air-to-surface missile to extend its service life beyond 2030. Brimstone is being carried by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoon fighter aircraft and is expected to be carried by the RAF’s new General Atomics MQ-9B Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) and the British Army’s new Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. In December 2018, Project Centurion, including the introduction of Meteor, Brimstone and Storm Shadow, was completed on RAF Typhoons.
BAE Systems has received an initial funding award from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, to start integration for MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SPEAR precision surface attack missile. Under this initial package of work BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin will also complete further integration work with MBDA on ASRAAM and with Raytheon on Paveway IV, initially integrated in support of delivering Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the UK.
The Brimstone 3 ultra-high precision missile system successfully completed its first firing trial at the Vidsel Trials range in Sweden in February in temperatures below -30°C, when the missile was surface launched against a pick-up truck target.
Looking at future markets, Chris Allam highlighted Poland and following the integration of ASRAMM and other MBDA weapon systems on the RAF F-35, other European countries which have selected the aircraft including Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Norway, and possibly Finland.
He added that the two European Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) programmes are of great interest. MBDA is a tier partner of the UK’s Team Tempest and although it is early days the focus is on developing future concept technologies and networks.
Antoine Bouvier said that 2019 would be a complex period full of challenges. He said that MBDA will be rebalancing its strategy with more emphasis on the domestic market and will continue to develop new products to be able to address all weapon domains with the core capabilities of strike and defence. With regard to hypersonic weapons, he said that MBDA is working with governments to identify the threats that these weapons pose especially since the United States revoked the INF Treaty. However, these were long term initiatives.
One of the challenges that MBDA faces is the German embargo on defence sales to Saudi Arabia although Bouvier said, “we are confident that we will continue our co-operation with the customer. We will not change the product in any way and we are confident that things will work out.”
He also said that he would not say anything on Brexit, but did admit, “that it is not clear to where we are going.” He added, “we should find a way that is good for all of us. We should be more formal and organised in our approach as we will adapt to the changing world.” He also stated that the 2010 Anglo-French Lancaster House Treaty for defence and security co-operation is still working well and that wider European co-operation is a possibility in the future.
by David Oliver