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Italy has joined France and the United Kingdom in the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme.

A letter of intent (LoI) that paves the way for Italy to join the programme was signed during the 2023 Paris Air Show, held from 19-25 June, by representatives of the three countries: Lieutenant General Luciano Portolano, Secretary General of Defence and National Armaments Director for Italy; Andy Start, UK National Armament Director and CEO of the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation; and Emmanuel Chiva, Chief Executive of the French Direction générale de l’armement (DGA).

Participation in the FC/ASW programme will provide all three nations with a sovereign next-generation deep strike and heavy anti-ship capability to counter advanced threats. The programme will support the three countries’ strategic co-operation on missile technologies through MBDA as an integrated European defence champion, the European missile house stated in a 27 June press release.

An LoI paving the way for Italy to join the FC/ASW programme was signed during the 2023 Paris Air Show. (Photo: MBDA)

“We are delighted with Italy’s intent to join the FC/ASW programme,” Eric Beranger, CEO of MBDA, was quoted as saying. “Befitting our role as a champion of European defence co-operation – sharing technologies, capabilities, and expertise among our countries –we are pleased that this LoI opens the door for our Italian expertise to also be brought to bear in delivering this truly strategic defence capability for Europe. FC/ASW will meet the operational needs of the Italian, British and French armed forces in the deep strike and anti-ship domains for the decades to come.”

The FC/ASW programme began as a product of the Anglo-French defence relationship set out by the Lancaster House treaties. Last year the DGA and DE&S signed a government agreement and associated contracts that saw the launch of the preparation work/assessment phase for FC/ASW.

Complementary missile concepts are currently being assessed in order to meet the requirements of France, the UK and now Italy “to provide game-changing capabilities to overcome land-based and maritime threats, hardened targets and air defence systems, at very long ranges and in increasingly contested battlespace environments”, MBDA stated.

Peter Felstead