MBDA Merger: Ramjet Resources Rising
In 2005, “Meteor Missile Will Make Changes to Accommodate F-35” looked at the multi-national project to create the Meteor long range air-air missile, and explained how improving technologies and different approaches to fighter design had led the Europeans to make the Meteor project a priority. Countries involved include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK; industrial participants include MBDA, Thales, SAAB Bofors Dynamics, Finmeccania’s Alenia, the Spanish INMIZE joint venture, and Boeing.
MBDA’s Meteor has been successfully conducting development testing over the last couple of years, using the JAS-39 Gripen as its primary test platform and adding flights with the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale. In parallel to that effort, MBDA has been advancing its strategic goals via the purchase of a German firm called Bayern-Chemie/Protac.
MBDA has already moved to consolidate its position as the European missile firm by buying the German defense firm LFK, which specializes in missiles; LFK is a major partner in the future US/European MEADS air defense system, for instance. Now approval by the appropriate national and international regulatory bodies has allowed MBDA to conclude its purchase of all remaining Bayern-Chemie/Protac shares from EADS and Thales on Aug 31/07. The firm is now a fully owned (100%) subsidiary of LFK GmbH (MBDA Deutschland). The MBDA release adds:
“Of special note is the ramjet engine developed by Bayern-Chemie/Protac for the METEOR beyond visual range (BVR) air launched guided missile system… Guiseppe Snider, Director of Strategy and Planning at MBDA, said: “The acquisition of Bayern-Chemie/Protac is a further decisive step towards consolidating the European guided missile industry under the leadership of MBDA. MBDA has now positioned itself as a global leader in the field of solid fuel ramjet engines while at the same time gaining a significant competitive advantage in the strongly contested international market for guided missile systems.”
Small, powerful ramjets are an important asset for long-range anti-aircraft missiles in particular, due to their unique ability to maintain full speed, thrust, and maneuverability all the way to the very edge of their range. Bayern-Chemie/Protac’s solid propellant, throttleable, ducted-ramjet motor gives the Meteor BVRAAM sustained Mach 4 speed. In contrast, conventional rocket-powered missiles rely upon an initial boost phase to achieve high speed, followed by a ‘coast’ phase to intercept that may not leave them with enough energy to catch high speed, very maneuverable targets as the missile approaches its range limits.
With Russia upping the ante by testing its new 200-400 km Novator K-100-1 air-air missile for the new SU-35 fighter, that kind of in-house expertise is going to come in handy.