French defence procurement agency Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) has awarded a contract to MBDA to support its Missile d’Interception et de Combat Aérien Nouvelle Génération (MICA NG) programme.
Under the deal, the company will be responsible for the development and delivery of 567 units of the next-generation of the MICA NG air-to-air missile, in addition to the pyrotechnic upgrade of 300 MICA fleet already in service with the country.
Designed to equip the current and future variants of the Rafale combat aircraft, the weapon system will replace the MICA missiles that have been in operational service with the French Armed Forces since the early 2000s.
These weapons will help support and strengthen the medium-range interception, close combat and self-defence capabilities of the Rafale fighter jets deployed for use by the French Air Force and the French Navy.
Under its MICA NG programme, the DGA will carry out an extensive redesign of the current MICA missile family while maintaining the same aerodynamics, mass, and centre of gravity.
MBDA chief executive officer Antoine Bouvier said: “We are proud of the work completed with the DGA to achieve maximum technical and financial optimisation.
“The fact that we have reached this stage is thanks to the vision that we were able to share with our French customer to address its operational challenges, as well as our own long-term commercial challenges. The upgrading of the MICA family will enable us to support the armed forces throughout the remaining operational life of the Rafale.”
The air-to-air missile system features infrared and radio frequency seekers in a single missile casing, in addition to rail and ejection launch modes.
The system will be capable of addressing future threats, which include targets with reduced infrared and electromagnetic signatures, atypical targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles and small aircraft, as well as threats normally countered by air-to-air missiles.
Deliveries of the new missiles are slated to commence in 2026, and the pyrotechnic modernisation of the existing MICA fleet will allow the weapons to be used by all French aircraft until 2030.