MBDA’s Missile Moyenne Portee (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.
The MMP System
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The goal is a missile whose attack modes can include fire and forget, man in the loop mode, re-assignment in flight, and even seeker lock-on after launch. 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 Sagem’s 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 with a manual override that’s almost impossible to jam.
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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. MLP will keep the basic MMP form factor, but lengthen the pop-out wings and make other improvements. It’s is scheduled to debut in 2018, with helicopter integration on Eurocopter’s EC665 Tiger HAD attack helicopters slated for 2020.
MMP and MLP missiles will also be candidates for integration on armored vehicles. The missile is slated to be paired with the unique CT40 turret on France’s future EBRC wheeled light tanks, and mock-ups have been shown on
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 (cooled IIR/optical, optional man in the loop), Raytheon’s now-wireless BGM-71 TOW family (optical, man in the loop), Russia’s AT-14 Korenet-E (laser beamrider), and Saab’s Bill 2 (optical, man in the loop) with its top attack profile.
Contracts & Key Events
October 25/18: Naval version MBDA will soon launch a naval version of its proven MMP 5th generation missile system. MBDA’s Missile Moyenne Portee has been designed to be France’s next portable anti-armor missile for troops and vehicles. Its attack modes include fire and forget, man in the loop mode, re-assignment in flight, and even seeker lock-on after launch. As a medium missile, it needs to kill targets up to an including main battle tanks. The unveiling of the missile at Euronaval follows an operational evaluation campaign carried out at the end of the summer by the French armed forces in Djibouti to confirm the reliability and operational performance of the MMP system in a hot environment, both from the ground and also from a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) moving at high speed. The new missile variant can be used on fast attack craft or semi-rigid boats for missions against hostile ships, coastal defenses or armored vehicles, especially in support of a landing of small units or Special Forces.
June 17/14: Sub-contractors. Sagem Group announces a contract from MBDA to develop and build the optronic (electro-optical) control unit for the firing-posts, and the MMP’s twin-mode seeker. The first tranche of the contract provides for the production of more than 1,500 seekers and 225 optronic control units, to be delivered starting in 2016.
The MMP missile seeker will use an uncooled infrared channel (fire and forget) or a visible wavelength channel (man in the loop), and incorporates an inertial reference unit (IRU) to help the seeker and the missile itself understand where it is at any given moment. The Montlucon plant will make the inertial components.
The optronic control unit will be fitted with a high-definition twin-field infrared sensor offering advanced image processing, a daytime video channel, GPS receiver, and magnetic compass. The twin-field system gives the gunner images from both the cameras in the firing-post and the missile’s seeker. A laser rangefinder will be optional. Both the optronic units and the seekers will be produced by Sagem’s Poitiers plant. Sources: Sagem DS, “Sagem to supply seeker and firing-posts optronics for MBDA’s new MMP medium-range missile”.
June 12/14: MBDA Systems is at Eurosatory 2014, touting MMP for dismounted troops, deployed on a model of Nexter’s CT40 40mm canon turret for IFVs, and mounted on MBDA’s MPCV wheeled patrol vehicle and missile carrier.
The CT40 will equip Britain’s FRES-SV and Warrior WSCP tracked IFVs, but Britain uses the American Javelin missile as its mainstay. MBDA’s main target involves the French Scorpion meta-program’s wheeled EBRC vehicles, whose CT40 turret and MPP missiles are slated to replace the light tank firepower provided by current wheeled AMX-10. MBDA’s MPCV already has been exported to Saudi Arabia’s National Guard in its air defense version, and its light weight, mobility, and low cost make it an interesting scout vehicle offering for countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Finally, a CT40/MPP combination would also be thinkable in a turret upgrade or export sale of French IFVs like the VBCI. Sources: MBDA, “MBDA presents MMP, the market’s only 5th generation land combat missile”.
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”.
* MBDA – MMP.
Associated & Potential Platforms
* DID – VBCI: France’s Wheeled APC. It’s a likely platform for the missile, but that will require modifications to the turret, or a swap upgrade to the Nexter CT40 with its caseless ammunition and MMP mounting option.
* Army Technology – Multi Purpose Combat Vehicle (MPCV), France. Mockup shown at Eurosatory 2014; the air defense version has been exported to the Saudi National Guard.
MMP Missile Competitors
* DID – Pilum High: The Javelin Anti-Armor Missile. MMP’s main competitor; France even placed a 2010 order.
* RAFAEL – SPIKE Family of Multi-Purpose, Tactical Missiles. Dismounted and helicopter mounted.
* Raytheon – TOW Weapon System. The BGM-71 family is very wide ranging, with dismounted, vehicle mounted, and helicopter mounted missiles. Now has a wireless operator-guided option as TOW-RF.
* Army Technology – Kornet E Anti-Tank Missile, Russia. NATO designation AT-14.
* Saab – Bill 2 Overfly, Top Attack Missile System. Its top attack profile is especially deadly to tanks.