France will not participate in the European project for an endo-atmospheric hypersonic missile interceptor

In November 2019, MBDA was pleased to be appointed “coordinator” of the ambitious European program TWISTER. [Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based TheatER surveillance] which, is retained under the Permanent Structured Cooperation [CSP ou PESCO], which aims to develop an anti-missile system based in particular on an endo-atmospheric multi-role interceptor. This is a question that has, in the long term, means that it may be possible to counter threats that qualify to arise, such as hypersonic missiles.

With France at the helm and the participation of Germany, Spain, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands, this project is thus proposed to “strengthen the capacity of Europeans to better identify, monitor and combat these threats through a combination of improved space-based early warning capabilities and endo-atmospheric interceptors” while strengthening “Europe’s autonomous capabilities to contribute to NATO’s ballistic missile defense”.

In the 2021 edition of the Defense Innovation Orientation Reference Document [DrOID]the Defense Innovation Agency [AID] The importance of TWISTER was emphasized, explaining that this program will be based on a “space component of the alert and an endoatmospheric interceptor capability”.

However, in June 2021, under the European Defense Industry Development Program [PEDID ou EDIDP]the coordination of the work related to the early warning space component is entrusted by the European Commission to the German group OHB, within the framework of the “ODIN’S EYE” project. [multinatiOnal Development INitiative for a Space-based missilE earlY-warning architecturE].

Benefiting from an envelope of approximately 7.8 million euros and expected to last 24 months, this project mainly consists of preparing the development of a detection capability for ballistic and hypersonic missiles as well as civilian launchers from space as part of a European missile defense. France was represented there by ONERA, ArianeGroup SAS, Airbus Defense & Space SAS, Thales LAS France SAS and Thales Alenia Space France SAS. This project also brings together Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland.

Then, in November of the same year, MBDA announced the opening of a permanent office in Brussels to strengthen its “presence closer to the institutions of the European Union. [UE] and NATO” to better support “their initiatives aimed at strengthening European defense cooperation”, including TWISTER.

Only last week, and this time under the European Defense Fund [FEDef]the European Commission launched the “European Hypersonic Defense Interceptor” project [EU HYDEF], which should produce a “European endoatmospheric interceptor demonstrator to counter the threats of post-2035”. And so the hypersonic missiles.

With its experience in this area, its Aquila project, which brings together France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, and its role in TWISTER, one can imagine that MBDA has all the cards in hand to make this program, with 110 million. euros. This did not happen, the European Commission relying on the coordination of the EU HYDEF with the Spanish group SENER Aeroespacial, whose references in the field of anti-missile defense and hypersonic flight although unclear …

In its explanatory note, the European Commission determined that the EU HYDEF is involved in the TWISTER project. The fact remains that no French company is involved in it… On the other hand, it has merged, in addition to Spain, Germany [avec Diehl Defence]Belgium, Norway [qui n’est pas membre de l’UE, ndlr], Poland, Czech Republic and Sweden. In short, the only country in Europe that developed hypersonic weapons [missile ASN4G et planeur V-MAX, sans oublier les missiles balistiques M51] will not participate in a project to develop an interceptor missile against this type of threat.

According to La Tribune, citing several sources in Brussels, the French are “too sure of themselves” in this event and “not paying enough attention” to the competition led by SENER Aeroespacial, which “plays the game in the process in the competition of the Commission”, although this means, without a doubt, promising too much … In addition, the weekly underlines, there is “no possible repechage” for MBDA.

However, if DrOID 2021 mentions the TWISTER project, the 2022 version does not say anything about it. Regarding “early warning, the work is related to the improvement of achievements, continuing the work of threat identification, as well as the study of the architecture of an early warning system and the search for solutions in modules for designation of ballistic targets from the ground using the SAMP/T system [Sol-Air Moyenne Portée / Terrestre]. The work related to the final acquisition of a space early warning capability, sought on a European scale, is carried out in the “space” field”, we read in the chapter “protection and surveillance”, which places emphasis on removing the risks associated with “future surface-to-air missiles”.

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