MBDA Unveils Ground-Launched, Deep-Fires Cruise-Missile Concept

MBDA ground-launched cruise missile
Credit: MBDA

BERLIN—Missile manufacturer MBDA has unveiled a ground-launched cruise-missile solution to a growing European demand for ground-based deep fires.

The Joint Fire Support Missile (JFS-M) unveiled here at the ILA Berlin Air Show is designed to be a modular weapon with a range of up to 499 km (310 mi.) that builds off the company’s development of uncrewed remote carriers for the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

The missile has been adapted to fit into the rocket-pod containers of multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) such as the M270 or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The JFS-M concept shown in Berlin has been designed around a German requirement for a long-range, deep-strike capability. Other European nations have similar requirements but have called for shorter ranges.

Rather than opt for a ballistic-missile system, MBDA officials argue that taking a low-cost cruise-missile approach will give ground forces better capability to deal with high-value and potentially mobile targets such as advanced surface-to-air missile systems.

Launched in multiples, the JFS-M is billed as approaching a target from different directions to confuse air defenses and conceal the launch position. Firing ballistic missiles, company officials argue, may be quicker but can require coordination to deconflict the airspace into which they are being fired from other coalition users.

Cruise-missile targeting may take longer, but the company is developing technologies that it says would speed up that process, giving operators a choice of potential routes to a selected target. Current cruise-missile flights require extensive planning with the plotting of waypoints.

The turbojet-powered weapon also would be cheaper than a ballistic missile, MBDA says, as it would only need a small booster to become airborne from the launcher. Large boosters for ballistic missiles can be expensive, the company says.

The JFS-M is based around the design of MBDA’s RC100 small remote carrier, which the company is developing as part of the French, Germany and Spanish FCAS project.

JFS-M could be one of the first uses for the remote-carrier and could result in a family of weapons for ground-, air- and sea-launch. It also could mean MLRS vehicles could launch remote carriers as part of a wider air campaign.

Two JFS-Ms can fit into the modular rocket-pod containers in the M270. A single M270 therefore could fire up to four JFS-Ms, although MBDA believes artillery commanders likely will want their systems to be fitted with rockets in one container and the missiles in the other. A HIMARS carries a single rocket-pod container and could therefore fire two JFS-Ms.

Many of the technologies and systems envisioned for the JFS-M are already in an advanced state of development. MBDA believes it could bring such a system to the market in 4-5 years.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.