UK-French Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Missiles Progress

UK-French Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Missiles Progress

The joint UK-French Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) program has made significant strides recently, according to the British Ministry of Defence. Ministers provided progress updates in response to parliamentary questions on the advanced missile development effort.

“The FC/ASW program is now in its third year of the assessment phase with joint Anglo-French teams designing novel technological advances in missile capability,” stated Defence Procurement Minister James Cartlidge. “Significant progress has been made on candidate weapon systems to fulfill naval and air requirements.”

Cartlidge said work is currently focused on reducing technical risks and schedule risks prior to potential demonstration and manufacturing phases. Preparations are also underway to bring in Italy as a third partner nation following the signing of a Letter of Intent last June.

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Maritime Variant Targets 2028 Service Entry

In a separate statement, the MoD confirmed the maritime-launched Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon is currently planned for service entry in 2028. Decisions on which specific design options will meet this requirement, including the possibility of an off-the-shelf solution, are still ongoing.

The Anglo-French FC/ASW program was initiated in 2017 to develop next generation cruise missile successors to the Storm Shadow/SCALP, Exocet and Harpoon anti-ship missiles previously produced jointly. It falls under the Lancaster House defence treaties between the two nations.

Two Missile Concepts Under Evaluation

As of 2022, the FC/ASW program was evaluating two candidate missile concepts a stealthy subsonic cruise missile and a highly maneuverable supersonic design. This represented a shift away from earlier plans to pursue a hypersonic weapon akin to the abandoned MBDA CVS401 Perseus concept.

The program’s current trajectory aims to complete the assessment phase by 2024 and proceed to a manufacturing phase from 2025-2035. Two separate missile variants are envisioned a deep strike land-attack version expected to reach operational capability around 2028, followed by the anti-ship variant around 2034.

European Industry Collaboration

European missile maker MBDA is the lead industrial contractor for FC/ASW, with funding provided equally by British and French government stakeholders. The endeavor consolidates several previous multinational missile programs between the two nations.

If Italy joins as a third partner, it could provide additional funding as well as defense industrial technological inputs. This would expand FC/ASW into a broader European collaboration for next generation air/surface launched precision strike missiles.

With increasing concerns over anti-access/area-denial threats, delivering an advanced and affordable long range precision strike capability remains a high priority for UK and French forces. FC/ASW aims to ensure both nations can penetrate and engage well defended targets at extended ranges in future high end conflicts.

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