MBDA to develop Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile for French attack helicopter Tigre

According to a press release published on November 13, 2020, French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly has announced that MBDA is to develop the Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (MAST-F) program as the main French Army air to ground armament for the Tiger combat helicopter.

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MBDA to develop Future Tactical Air to Surface Missile for French attack helicopter Tigre 925 001 MBDA will develop the Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (MAST-F) for French combat attack helicopter Tigre. (Picture source MBDA)

MBDA was selected after proposing to the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA - French Procurement Agency) its MHT/MLP concept (Missile Haut de Trame / Missile Longue Portée - high tier missile / long-range mobile missile) that builds on the technologies of the mid-range MMP, the first 5th generation land combat missile to enter service around the world. Its modular architecture enables easy integration of the MHT/MLP onto a variety of land or air combat platforms in addition to the Tiger.

The MHT/MLP is characterized by its high operational effectiveness. Weighing 20% less than other missiles in its category provides a weight saving of nearly 100 kg for the Tiger helicopter, which can carry up to eight missiles in combat configuration. Exploiting this weight saving increases the Tiger's fuel capacity and so its combat endurance, with a significant gain in "Playtime".

The MHT/MLP has a range of over 8 km, even when fired from a stationary platform at low altitude. Its multi-effect warhead can handle a wide variety of targets, from modern battle tanks to hardened combat infrastructure. The MHT/MLP performs day or night, including in beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) mode, with a two-way data link that sends images from the missile's high-resolution visible and infrared optronic seeker back to the operator. The crew of the Tiger can use this imagery to choose the missile's point of impact or to select a new target in flight, making the weapon suitable for fluid battlefield situations.

The Tiger is a four-bladed, twin-engine attack helicopter developed and manufactured by the French company Airbus Helicopters formerly Eurocopter. It entered service with the French Army in 2003. The Tiger is capable of undertaking a wide range of combat missions, including armed reconnaissance and surveillance, anti-tank and close air support, escort and protection of friendly assets; and can operate during day or night in all weather conditions, and has been designed to include operations in the aftermath of nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare.

The Tiger attack helicopter can be fitted with various armaments including rockets, cannons, and a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, controlled via a dedicated weapons control computer. Munitions for anti-ground warfare include the nose-mounted 30mm Nexter turret; an assortment of external gun pods, anti-tank missiles, and up to four launchers for 70mm and 68mm rockets can be mounted on the Tiger's stub wings.

Commenting on the launch of the program, MBDA CEO Eric Béranger declared: "The MHT/MLP missile combines new technologies, developed with the support of the DGA, with the tried and tested components of the MMP, making it an effector at the forefront of today's tactical land combat missiles. It offers the flexibility of use unmatched in today's armed forces while minimizing development risks. And with its all-European design authority, the MHT/MLP program will fully contribute to the strategic autonomy objectives set by France and the European Union."

"With nearly 350 jobs per year over the next five years and, ultimately, around 250 annual jobs in France during the first 10 years of its production, the development and production of this new missile will help maintain of the national industrial and technological base, and in particular in the Centre region", he added.

MBDA to develop Future Tactical Air to Surface Missile for French attack helicopter Tigre 925 002French attack helicopter Tigre (Picture source Air Recognition)