In the new 2017, the French armed forces intend to implement several new programs related to the rearmament of combat units. One of such projects concerns the sphere of anti-tank missile systems. Currently, the French army is armed with several systems of this class, including outdated samples. This year, the ground forces will have to receive the first copies of the MMP ATGM, offered as a replacement for the old systems.
The MMP (Missile Moyenne Portée - Medium-Range Rocket) project has been developed by MBDA Missile Systems since 2009 on its own initiative. Initially, the purpose of the work was to determine the general features of the appearance of a promising anti-tank complex, but later on, the tasks of the project were updated. In 2010, the French military department held a competition, as a result of which it purchased the American-made Javelin ATGM system, considering domestic systems of a similar purpose obsolete. After that, the MMP complex was proposed to be made taking into account the replacement of old French weapons.
MMP complex in position
In the future, the developer company managed to interest the Ministry of Defense, which resulted in state support for the project. Finally, in December 2013, the first official contract appeared for the future supply of serial missiles and launchers for them. In accordance with the signed document, MBDA will have to transfer 400 portable launchers and 2,850 missiles to the customer. It was planned to start delivering serial weapons in 2017. As recent events and reports indicate, the contractor is on track with the first MMP items being handed over to the army over the next few months.
It should be noted that at the time of signing the contract with the French army, MBDA did not have time to bring the Missile Moyenne Portée project to the testing stage. Only in 2014, tests of the warhead and other components of the promising missile took place. At the same time, the first test run was carried out in a special tunnel. In the same year, the prototype of the new ATGM was first demonstrated to the general public. The Eurosatory 2014 exhibition became the platform for the "premiere" of the complex. It should be noted that in 2014 the entire complex was shown for the first time. The first demonstration of the layout of a promising rocket took place even earlier, in 2011.
Rocket in the assembly shop
In the early stages of creating a new project, the designers of MBDA Missile Systems formed an interesting list of requirements for a rocket and a launcher. When defining the terms of reference, the experience of local conflicts of recent decades was taken into account, during which the existing ATGM systems mastered several new "professions". In the course of recent wars, anti-tank missiles were actively used not only to combat enemy armored vehicles, but also during the destruction of strongpoints or firing points, including in urban conditions. In addition, the optimal position for launching a rocket is often inside a building.
The requirements for the MMP missile were defined as follows. The complex should have the minimum possible weight and dimensions, allowing its transportation by calculation forces. The equipment of the complex should ensure the use of missiles at any time of the day and in any weather conditions. It was also required to provide for the possibility of retargeting the missile during flight and searching for targets after launch. To expand the list of possible firing positions and reduce risks for the calculation, it was necessary to reduce the shock wave at launch. The missile was supposed to hit a variety of targets, from tanks to fortifications, destroying the selected object and causing the least possible collateral damage.
As the published information shows, all the tasks were successfully completed. According to the developer, the MMP missile system uses various technical ideas and solutions, as well as special algorithms to expand the range of tasks to be solved while maintaining acceptable performance. One of the ways to solve the set tasks and reduce the cost of finished products was a new approach to the selection of the element base. It was decided to use the so-called. COST-components, with acceptable characteristics differing in relatively low cost.
The main element of the MMP complex is the guided missile of the same name. Its design, in general, corresponds to the appearance of modern weapons of this class. The rocket with a total length of less than 1.3 m has a cylindrical body with a maximum diameter of 140 mm. A head fairing is used, which contains part of the guidance and control equipment, as well as a small-sized leading charge of the warhead. The central compartment is given over to accommodate the main charge and a solid propellant engine. In the tail there is one more equipment compartment and a compact launching accelerator. For stabilization and control in flight, the rocket has two sets of X-shaped planes. In the transport position, they are located inside the hull, after exiting the launch container, they open by turning back.
The MMP missile is proposed to be delivered, stored and used together with a transport and launch container. The latter is a 1.4 m long plastic tube with sealed end caps and fasteners for mounting on the launcher. For greater ease of use, the TPK has a carrying handle and shock absorbers made of soft material at the ends, preventing shocks during transportation or storage. During the entire storage period, the rocket in the TPK does not need any maintenance. The missile container weighs 15 kg.
At the head of the missile body are the guidance systems of the original composition. Specific requirements for the combat capabilities of the product led to the use of a combined guidance head with a TV camera and an uncooled infrared unit. In addition, in some situations, the rocket must use the built-in inertial navigation system. The combined guidance equipment used led to the need to use two-way communication between the rocket and the launcher. For this, the MMP project used a fiber optic cable stored on a coil in the tail compartment of the rocket.
The rocket of the new type is equipped with a solid-propellant engine and a starting booster. A compact tail booster is used to eject the rocket from the transport and launch container and for the initial acceleration. A characteristic feature of the rocket launch is a significant reduction in the amount of emitted gases, which, among other things, allows the use of MMP ATGMs not only in open spaces, but also indoors. It also reduces the risks for fighters in the immediate vicinity of the launcher. After moving away from the launcher at a certain distance, the main engine with full thrust is turned on. The parameters of the rocket thrust and speed have not yet been specified. According to the developer, the rocket is capable of flying at a range of up to 4.1 km.
To date, only a portable launcher designed for infantry use has been developed. In the future, MBDA plans to design and offer customers a modified version of such a product, intended for installation on self-propelled vehicles. Apparently, the changes will be minimal and will affect only the design of the supports and the power system.
The infantry launcher offered to customers is a portable system with a full set of necessary equipment. For placement on various surfaces, the unit has an adjustable tripod support. All other units are attached to the latter. To the left of the vertical axis of the installation is a single block of optoelectronic equipment, which is responsible for searching for targets and controlling the missile. On its starboard side there are mountings for the TPK missile. It is interesting that the container with ammunition is set at a certain angle to the horizon, because of which the rocket must be fired along an ascending trajectory.
The control unit has its own magnetic compass and satellite navigation system. There is a television camera, thermal imager and laser rangefinder. The signal from the optoelectronic devices is output to the operator's sight. The installation and the rocket are controlled using several levers and a set of buttons. Commands are transmitted to a fully digital control system, which is responsible for communication with a flying missile and the formation of control impulses. The same devices are responsible for receiving and processing the video signal from the missile's onboard systems. The portable launcher also has its own power source.
According to reports, the MMP anti-tank missile system has three modes of operation, expanding the range of tasks to be solved and increasing the efficiency of use. The first one is “shoot and forget”. In this case, the operator selects a target and takes it for automatic tracking. After the command to start, the electronics of the complex independently monitors the movement of the target and guides the rocket at it. If necessary, the semi-automatic mode can be used. In this case, the operator holds the aiming mark on the target, and the automatic controls the missile on it.
Of particular interest is the LOAL mode (Lock On After Launch). To fire using this technique, the operator must have external target designation data. Without seeing the target, the calculation must aim the missile at the area of the attacked object and launch. After the missile approaches the target, the operator can independently find it using the signal from a television camera or thermal imager. After that, the target is escorted and attacked. The presence of two optical channels allows the rocket to be used at any time of the day.
To destroy targets of various types, the MMP missile carries a tandem cumulative warhead. According to the manufacturer, the warhead is capable of penetrating up to 1000 mm of homogeneous armor or a concrete object up to 2 m thick. If necessary, the missile can be used in a "kinetic" mode. To reduce collateral damage, the operator can turn off the fuse, after which the destruction of the target is carried out exclusively at the expense of the energy of the ammunition. It is argued that the new high-power warhead allows the ATGM to fight both outdated or modern tanks, and with various fortifications, buildings, firing points, etc.
Major design work under the Missile Moyenne Portée program was completed in 2013-14, after which testing of a new weapon began. During the tests, a large number of tests of ground equipment were carried out, as well as several dozen missile launches in various configurations and for different purposes. Based on the results of all the necessary checks, the promising anti-tank complex was recommended for serial production.
MBDA Missile Systems announced the start of production of serial missiles and launchers of the MMP type in June last year. In the foreseeable future, it was planned to bring the serial assembly of the complexes to the required pace, and then begin the supply of finished products to the starting customer in the person of the French ground forces. The first serial MMP ATGMs were allegedly sent to the army in 2017. Over the next several years, the army wants to receive four hundred portable launchers and 2,850 missiles for them.
The new missile systems are being considered as a replacement for the outdated MILAN systems that were put into service about 40 years ago. In addition, the MMP ATGM will be able, at a minimum, to complement the slightly newer ERYX products used by the army since the early nineties. With the successful implementation of all existing plans, the French ground forces will be able to significantly update their arsenals of portable anti-tank weapons. At the moment, the newest and most perfect complex for such a purpose is the import system Javelin, and in the foreseeable future it will be supplemented in this role by the domestic MMP.
At the moment, only one contract is known for the supply of MBDA MMP complexes. The first and so far the only customer of such weapons is France. A promising missile system has been repeatedly demonstrated at exhibitions of weapons and military equipment, where it could attract the attention of potential buyers from other countries. Nevertheless, as far as is known, so far the interest of foreign armies has not led to the signing of contracts for the supply of weapons.
Judging by the published data, the newest French MMP ATGM is of great interest both from a technical point of view and in connection with the original concept underlying the project. Previous systems of this class were created with the aim of combating enemy armored vehicles, and the attack of various structures was only an additional function. In the case of the Missile Moyenne Portée complex, the task of the designers was initially to create a universal system with a multi-purpose missile. Published information shows that MBDA specialists managed to find ways to create such a weapon.
Nevertheless, it will be possible to speak with confidence about the correctness of the applied ideas and solutions only after the use of a promising complex in a real battle. MMP systems are still far from such checks, but the early start of the supply of weapons to the army and the continuation of a number of armed conflicts may contribute to the sending of ATGMs to the front line.