MMP: France’s New Portable Anti-Armor Missile
MBDA’s Missile Moyenne PortÃ©e (MMP, for “middle range missile”) is designed to be France’s next portable anti-armor missile for troops and vehicles. The question is whether it can achieve anything close to its predecessor’s popularity.
France currently relies on wire-guided MILAN portable anti-tank missiles for its troops and vehicles, but the design was first introduced in the early 1970s. Despite a series of version upgrades, and tremendous export success to over 30 countries, the French found themselves forced to buy American Javelin missiles in 2010 as an Urgent Operational Requirement. The MMP program, begun in early 2012, aims to fix that for next time…
MMP has been designed for both a “fire and forget” capability that protects the operator, and a “man in the loop” manual guidance option to reduce the risk of collateral damage. As a medium missile, it needs to kill targets up to an including main battle tanks, while remaining effective in urban warfare scenarios that focus on reinforced buildings. Urban effectiveness has also driven a design that’s designed to be fired from confined spaces without barbecuing the operator.
Each missile in its tube weighs 15 kg/ 33.07 pounds, while the separate firing unit adds another 11 kg / 24.25 pounds. Launchers will also be designed for armored vehicles like France’s VBCI IFVs.
MMP’s command unit and missile use dual-mode uncooled infrared and visible channel seekers, and MEMS IMU inertial navigation. An uncooled IR seeker is especially useful, because it can be used very quickly, as opposed to cooled seekers like Javelin’s that require 30 or so seconds to become ready. MMP can also be directed against non-line of sight targets, cued via datalink from a UAV or other integrated system.
Once fired, communication between the missile and the firing unit relies on a fiber optic wire, allowing the operator to intervene if the missile needs a manual override.
The missile’s multipurpose tandem warhead is designed to defeat 2m of concrete or 1m of vehicle Rolled Homogenous Armor, and the tandem design will allow it to be effective against explosive reactive armor protection. Minimum lethal range against its full target set is listed as 2.5 km/ 1.34 miles, which includes disembarked personnel or personnel under hardened cover, as well as modern tanks.
MBDA says that MMP has an actual range of 4 km/ 2.16 miles, and an MLP variant aims to double that to 8 km. It will keep the basic MMP form factor, but lengthen the pop-out wings and make other improvements. MLP is scheduled to debut a year later, in 2018, with helicopter integration on Eurocopter’s EC665 Tiger HAD attack helicopters slated for 2020.
MBDA has an order from France, but they’ll need to secure a number of export customers before the program can be deemed a success like the MILAN. Key global competitors will include the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin missile (cooled IIR, no man in the loop), RAFAEL of Israel’s popular Spike family, Raytheon’s now-wireless BGM-71 TOW family, Russia’s AT-14 Korenet-E, and Saab’s Bill 2 with its top attack profile.
Contracts & Key Events
Dec 3/13: France’s DGA awards MBDA a contract to begin MMP production. The initial order is for 175 launchers and 450 missiles, which will enter service in 2017 and finish deliveries by 2019. The full program for France will involve 400 launchers and 2,850 missiles. Sources: DGA, “La DGA notifie le programme du missile moyenne portée (MMP)” | MBDA, “MBDA Notified By France Of MMP Weapon System Order”.
Nov 26/13: Go-ahead. French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announces to the Assemblée Nationale that the MMP missile is one of the projects approved in the new 2014-2019 budget. France has a sane budget system with multi-year allocations, which really helps with project stability. Key excerpt:
“D’ici la fin de 2013, pourront ainsi etre engages le missile moyenne portee MMP, qui prendra la succession des missiles MILAN, essentiel a la fois pour l’armee de terre et notre industrie missiliere…. Parmi ces equipements, bien sur, un certain nombre sera polyvalent. C’est ainsi que nous recevrons, sur cette periode, les satellites du programme MUSIS, mais egalement 450 missiles moyenne portee (MMP), les premiers MRTT, 15 A400M”
Sources: French MdlD, “LPM : allocution de Jean-Yves Le Drian, ministre de la Défense devant l’Assemblée nationale”
June 19/13: Testing. MBDA has started MMP integration tests, and the configuration of the missile and its associated equipment are now fixed. Testing has included the uncooled IR seeker, the latest generation cameras in the firing post, firing post ergonomics, and the dynamic behavior of the fiber optic connection. At the same time, environmental testing of a full model have enabled MMP’s sub-assembly environmental specifications.
Firing trials have included safe confined space launches in Bourges, central France, and the warhead has been tested “against the latest generation of explosive reactive armour”.
MBDA still needs to conduct shock and vibration tests, full system environmental tests, and warhead tests against concrete structures. Studies have begun with Nexter to integrate MMP on the CT-40 canon turret, and this will presumably focus on the long-range (8 km) MLP model. Sources: MBDA, “MBDA Starts MMP Integration Tests”.
Dec 30/11: The French DGA procurement agency awards MBDA an MMP risk reduction contract for the medium range missile (MMP) program. MBDA has actually been developing the missile using its own funds, and this contract is about validating the technical choices made so far.
France’s formal MMP development program is scheduled for launch in late 2012, and will eventually replace MILAN missiles that have been in service with the French armed forces since 1974. Sources: DGA, “La succession du missile Milan en préparation” | MBDA, “New System To Replace The Milan Missile”.