France will launch this month a program for a new-generation Mica air-to-air missile, with pricing based on the weapon’s export prospects, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said.
“We will launch this new approach with the launch of the Mica NG program at the end of July,” she said Thursday.
Parly was referring to the government factoring in the prospective foreign sale of arms when drawing up its national equipment budget. MBDA builds the Mica, which arms the Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jet.
“Our country will not pay by itself the weapon systems which will help others,” she said in a speech on a transformation of the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office.
“Arms exports are the business model for our sovereignty,” she said, recalling her remarks made the day before to the defense committee of the lower house National Assembly. Exports were “vital” for industry to retain a broad spread of arms technology, needed to support the military services’ full range of operations.
“That is why I wish to see our national programs take more into account right from the start the export prospects,” she said. “It is not normal that the state fails to benefit from more advantageous pricing when the export prospects become a reality.”
It will be on that new business approach that the new version of the Mica missile will launch, she said.
The Mica NG will arm the planned upgrade of the Rafale fighter, with Dassault expected to sign a modernization contract of the fighter jet to the F4 standard later this year. The government has previously ordered preliminary studies for the Rafale F4.
Any missile upgrades will involve internal modifications, keeping the exterior unchanged, an industry source said. That is intended to ease the missile’s integration on the Rafale and avoid a costly change of the fighter’s aerodynamics. A Rafale can carry up to six Mica missiles.
A Rafale pilot can release the Mica when intercepting an aircraft beyond visual range and can also fire the weapon from its rails when locked in a dogfight. The Rafale will also carry the Meteor missile to hit aircraft beyond visual range.
An upgraded Rafale F3-R is due to be delivered this year, integrating the Meteor and Thales Talios laser designation pod.
MBDA declined to comment.
The previous multiyear military budget law was drawn up on the assumption France would sell the Rafale in foreign markets. If Egypt, Qatar and India had not bought the fighter, the government would have had to cut spending on other arms programs to keep the Dassault production line open.