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MBDA to develop new air to surface missile for French Tiger helicopters

Tiger helicopter with MHT/MLP missile
Photo: MBDA

French missile specialist MBDA has been tasked wit developing a new air to surface missile for the French Army’s Tiger attack helicopters, the country’s defense minister has announced.

The Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (MAST-F) program will deliver the main air to ground armament for the Tiger.

MBDA was selected after proposing its MHT/MLP concept (Missile Haut de Trame / Missile Longue Portée – high tier missile / long-range mobile missile) to the French defense procurement agency. MHT/MLP builds on the technologies of the mid-range MMP, a 5th generation land combat missile.

France expects to order 500 MHT missiles this year as part of its Tiger upgrade program. The country is currently in the process of upgrading a number of Tiger helicopters to the HAD (Hélicoptère d’Appui Destruction) configuration, equipping them with better ballistic protection, greater take-off weight and the ability to operate in hot environments. The upgrade will last until 2024.

As described by MBDA, the new missile will weigh 20% less than other missiles in its category and provide 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.”

MHT/MLP has a range of over 8 km, with a multi-effect warhead can handle a variety of targets, from modern battle tanks to hardened combat infrastructure. The missile features beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capability, 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.

“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,” MBDA CEO Eric Béranger commented.

Purchased by France, Germany, Australia and Spain, the Airbus-built Tiger helicopters are designed to perform armed reconnaissance, air or ground escort, air-to-air combat, ground fire support, destruction and anti-tank warfare. A block 2 version of the four-bladed helicopter is also “navalized,” allowing operations from ships and in maritime environments. The helicopter has a maximum take-off weight of 6,600 kilos, an armed range of 340 nautical miles, and a fast cruise speed of 164 knots.