Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Anglo-French missile manufacturer MBDA has come to Aero India 2023 with its AM39 air-launched anti-ship missile from the Exocet family for the first time, with an eye on the Indian Navy’s ongoing carrier-based fighter programme, which is being perceived as going in favour of Dassault’s Rafale M aircraft.

There are also reports that MBDA has offered this airborne variant of the Exocet family for India’s indigenous 4.5-generation twin-engine deck-based fighter, more commonly called TEDBF, which is currently under development by the Indian government-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

MBDA is pitching its AM39 air-launched anti-ship missile at Aero India 2023, with an eye on the Indian Navy’s ongoing carrier-based fighter programme. (Photo: S Sharma)

After arming the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) in-service Rafale fighters with a full MBDA weapons suite, along with providing its submarine-launched Exocet SM39 long-range, all-weather missile for the Scorpene submarines currently being manufactured in India, MBDA is thus highly hopeful for more contracts.

MBDA’s debuting AM39 can be launched from multiple platforms such as fighters, maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters. It is an all-weather, day and night, fire-and-forget missile capable of carrying out a low-altitude, sea-skimming attack and can be launched from outside the target ship’s radar coverage. The AM39 is in service with the French Navy’s Rafale M fighters as well as with the Brazilian and Chilean navies, where it is launched by helicopter.

“MBDA is proud to propose the full package of the Exocet family of missiles for the Indian armed forces, as these are highly potent weapons, building on the success story of other MBDA missiles on board the IAF Rafales and also the Exocet SM39 on the Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy,” said MBDA spokesperson Nick De Larrinaga.

Reiterating its support for India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-Reliant India) initiative, MBDA has engaged in a joint venture with private Indian defence manufacturer Larsen & Toubro to produce its Exocet MM40 Block 3 ship-based surface-to-surface missile.

Meanwhile, the STARStreak air defence system from Thales UK is attracting large crowds at the Thales stand at Aero India 2023. This lightweight, 14 kg man-portable missile is the subject of a joint venture between Thales and the Indian government-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). The agreement, signed in 2021 to strengthen the ‘Make in India’ initiative, caters for the immediate needs of the Indian Army and the IAF, fulfilling the requirement for 60% of the system to be manufactured in India.

Thales and India’s Bharat Dynamics Limited are jointly producing the STARStreak air defence missile under the country’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. (Photo: Thales)

“We would like to see the STARStreak supply chains here in India, with exports being done to the UK MoD [Ministry of Defence] from here,” said the head of Thales operations in India, Ashish Saraf, on 14 February. “A proposal has been submitted for this programme to the Indian government and we are awaiting a reply.”

The STARStreak missile, a short-range system that addresses traditional fast-moving air targets. The Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) consists of a booster and three ‘hittile’ submunitions which separate from the booster shortly after launch. These hittiles are then guided to their target by laser beam riding guidance, and use a contact fuze to detonate inside the target, with each hittile possessing a 0.9 kg HE-FRAG warhead with a tungsten fragmentation sleeve. The newer STARStreak II HVM has a maximum speed of around Mach 3.5, and an  effective range in excess of 7 km. The missile is qualified for operations in severe climactic conditions, including a nuclear/biological/chemical (NBC) warfare environment.

Suman Sharma