Boris Solomiac, MBDA General Delegate India

New Delhi. 30 March 2022. “MBDA has been actively working in partnership with India’s government and industry to build India’s defence industrial capabilities for over 50 years. Over this time, many tens of thousands of MBDA designed missiles have been built in India and we continue to deepen and deliver on new programmes. Our full range of missiles and missile systems portfolio, the main defence domains air, land and sea are such as; Meteor, ASRAAM, Sea Ceptor, Exocet, MARTE, MMP and Mistral,” said  Boris Solomiac, MBDA General Delegate India in an exclusive interview to Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU).

ADU. How do you perceive the prospects for the company in the next five years?

BS. When we look to the future, MBDA is and will remain an absolute world-leader in the field of missile system technologies. This gives us the ability to continue to offer the best defence technologies to the Indian Armed Forces that provide a battle-winning edge for the future, and to continue to deepen our partnerships with Indian industry. These are the twin pillars of our consistent strategy we see going from strength to strength.

ADU. What is in MBDA’s inventory for Indian Army ?

BS. The history of co-operation between the Indian Army and MBDA goes right back to the origins of the anti-tank missile and MBDA has provided the Indian Army with battle-winning anti-tank systems ever since. The MILAN anti-tank missile, made in India, is an MBDA-design. This missile, which continues to serve with the Indian Army, provides reliable and combat-proven anti-tank performance. To date over 50,000 examples of the MILAN missile have been made in India. MBDA’s joint venture with Larsen and Toubro – L&T MBDA Missile Systems Limited (L&TMMSL) – is is offering a new anti-tank guided missile. A true successor to the highly successful MILAN. We are also very excited for the next stages of our partnership with the Indian Army, and have recently signed an agreement with Bharat Dynamics Limited for the final assembly integration and test line of the Mistral missile. Mistral has already been successfully integrated onto India’s combat helicopters, the ALH and LCH. This provides a bridge to their use in a ground based VSHORAD role. Mistral can be utilised as a man portable air defence system (MANPADS) in a very short-range air defence (VSHORAD). Utilising the same missile in multiple roles the Indian Army could reap the reward of major cost savings and operational benefits to be found in maintaining common equipment stockpiles. Not to mention the training and logistics benefits. The missile is fully compliant with India’s requirements and outperforms the capabilities of its rivals with a proven single-shot kill probability of over 96%.

Range Surface-to-Air

ADU. What is on MBDA’s platter for Indian Navy?

BS. Sea Ceptor is a latest generation all-weather air defence system is of particular interest as it is under consideration for its Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) requirement. Through the use of new advanced technologies, Sea Ceptor provides complete protection against all known and projected air targets including saturation attacks across 360° simultaneously. Sea Ceptor utilises the CAMM missile that features a next generation all-weather fully active RF-seeker, two-way datalink and soft-vertical launch system to provide a step-change in performance compared with previous generation systems.

There is also Exocet MM40, which has been offered for the Indian Navy’s Medium Range Anti-Ship Missile requirement. Exocet probably ranks as the world’s best known anti-ship missile. It is known in India where the submarine variant, SM39, has been delivered to the Indian Navy to arm its Scorpene submarines (Project 75).

ADU. What is the status of the JV between L&T and MBDA? What are the contracts the JV has obtained till now?

BS. We plan for L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd (L&TMMSL) to be a major manufacturer of missile systems in India and a significant contributor to Atmanirbhar Bharat and the Make in India programme. A key part of this for both local production and local development. The Joint Venture has already set up a facility in Coimbatore that is manufacturing and delivering equipment. L&TMMSL is bidding on three programmes for the Indian armed forces at present: it has offered the vertical launch Sea Ceptor air defence system for the Indian Navy’s SRSAM requirement, Exocet MM40 for the Indian’s Navy’s medium range anti-ship missile requirement, and is offering an antitank missile in the Make in India programme.

ADU. How have you handled issues pertaining to upgrades, transfer of technology and training of Indian personnel in maintenance of equipment, so far?

BS. Industrial co-operation between MBDA and Indian industry exists not only at the level of prime contractors, but right across India’s vibrant defence ecosystem and including many Indian enterprises of all sizes. This includes Indian expertise being supported on a wide range of complex missile technologies such as hi-specification mechanical, electrical, electromechanical and pyrotechnic items. Extensive examples of such work are being conducted today by Indian firms across a range of missile products being delivered to the Indian Armed Forces, including MICA and ASRAAM.

MBDA pavilion at DAS 2017

ADU. Looking back at 2021, how has the year been for MBDA with the pandemic going on? What are the high points and the low points in the context of Indian defence business?

BS. The high point was finalising the agreement with Bharat Dynamics Limited to establish a facility for the final assembly, integration and test (FAIT) of ASRAAM missiles in Hyderabad in July 2021, and work on establishing the facility getting underway as per plan. The low point is the human cost of the global pandemic on the people of India, and any effect it had on the many enterprises of India’s defence ecosystem.

ADU. What will be your focus in 2022?

BS. MBDA has two exciting focuses during  2022: providing the highest performing missile technologies to India, and secondly supporting Atmanirbhar Bharat as part of MBDA’s longstanding partnership strategy with India. A superb example of this first pillar are the Indian Air Force’s new Rafale fighter aircraft that are flying fully equipped with truly game changing set of weapons from MBDA – the revolutionary Meteorbeyond visual range air-to-air missile, MICA air combat missile and SCALP deep strike missile. These are the highest performing missiles of their type available anywhere in the world, providing India the ability to stealthily strike deep at enemy targets and to dominate totally in air combat.