MBDA offers India Brimstone, a multi-role precision strike missile, as part of missile package of MMRCA

The Libyan operation to oust Muhammar Qadhafi, it turns out, has given the NATO countries a shot in the arm for pitching the sale of their new-age munitions in the global missile market.

“The extensive use of MBDA-made missiles by the United Kingdom, France and Italy in the operation is the most significant confirmation of the impeccable performance and stability of our products. The forces have been extremely positive about our speed of weapon delivery as well. The conflict also confirmed the fact that capabilities like precision, air superiority and deep strike are based on the highest level of accuracy and performance,” Antoine Bouvier, Chief Executive Officer of MBDA Missile Systems, a four-nation European missile manufacturing major with facilities across Italy, France, Germany and the U.K., told a group of Indian journalists at a videoconference at the MBDA complex at Stevenage, north of London.

The decade-old consortium has about 30 per cent share in the missile market worldwide, despite having a limited presence in the United States. With close to 30 of its systems on offer to India besides a joint venture with the Defence Research and Development Organisation to develop a short-range surface-to-air missile, the company got a top British Commander of the Libyan War to brief the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the performance of Dual-Mode Brimstone, a multi-role precision strike missile.

“Senior IAF officers, including [the Chief of the Air Staff] Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, were present when Air Commodore E. Stinger, commander of the air component of the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the operation, gave a briefing at the Air Headquarters in New Delhi about two months ago,” Frank Morgan, who heads the U.K. airborne systems of the MBDA, told the journalists earlier at the company's Lostock manufacturing facility.

The Brimstone is on offer to India as part of the missile package of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), whose acquisition by the IAF looks imminent following the short-listing of the four-nation Eurofighter and the French Rafale from a ground of six aircraft after extensive trials.

Mr. Morgan said Brimstone was already in service with the RAF on its Tornado GR4 aircraft. “The weapon of choice in the Libyan operations has been excellent against static and moving targets in a multiple target scenario with almost zero collateral damage. It took out with precision tanks, armoured vehicles and air defence sensors operated by the pro-Qadhafi forces in the operation. Brimstone is slated to be qualified on the RAF Typhoon by 2015. In the meantime, the weapon is being tested in the coastal security environment against threat from fast in-shore attack crafts and this capability will be proven by this year-end. This would provide the IAF ‘pin point' accuracy in such operations,” he said.

Mr. Morgan said the Brimstone missile could also be integrated with the existing Jaguar fleet of the IAF besides the aircraft of Russian origin and Rafale. “We know the capability of the Jaguar and we have devised a six-missile configuration for it,” he said. \

Jaguar upgrade

The IAF's Jaguar fleet, including the maritime squadron, will undergo an ambitious upgrade with more powerful engines. As for the long-drawn MMRCA procurement, the IAF is expected to ink a deal for the purchase of aircraft and its weapon, sensor and avionics package anytime now.

(The Hindu's correspondent travelled to the United Kingdom and Italy with other reporters from India at the invitation of MBDA.)

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