The U.K. and France have signed a new agreement launching a three-year concept phase to develop future long-range weapons for the British and French Navies and Air Forces. Each country will contribute €50m to this phase. The agreement was signed on 28th March by British defence minister Harriett Baldwin and the head of the French defence procurement agency, Laurent Collet-Billon. It follows on from the 2016 Amiens Summit, at which the two countries formally confirmed their intent to launch the project within 12 months.
The Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme will look at options to replace and improve existing Naval and Air Force weapons systems in the next decade. Lasting up to three years, this will help to define the missile designs and reduce risks to inform decisions about the next stage of the programme. Alongside sharing costs, both sides will benefit from access to each other’s national technology expertise, trials and test facilities.
The aim is to have a new generation of missiles by around 2030 to replace the Harpoon, Scalp and Storm Shadow.
Coming the day before London formally triggers the process by which the U.K. will leave the European Union, the agreement further underscores what Baldwin called the “strong and enduring” defence and security relationship between the two countries. “We will continue to collaborate on joint defence programmes across the continent,” she declared.
U.K.-French cooperation already covers a wide range of fields beyond the FC/ASW programme, including research emerging from the partnership on innovation and missile technologies (MCM-ITP), work to align the countries’ capability plans, development and production centred on the Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) and the mid-life update programme of the SCALP/Storm Shadow missile systems.
The new project further strengthens MBDA’s industrial optimisation, building on their new Centres of Excellence located in France and the U.K.