Air Weapons: Warehouse Warriors Get Refreshed


March 20, 2017: France and Britain recently contracted weapons builder MBDA to perform mid-life refurbishment of Storm Shadow/Scalp missiles. The deal will include midlife refurbishment of current missile parts, such as the turbo-jet engine, an upgrade of the navigational system, and other replacement parts such as the cabling, seals, and gaskets. The first refurbished missiles are expected to be returned to the French and British by early 2020. The total price of this upgrade is not known but British revealed that their part of the deal is worth around $182 million and also stated strong collaboration with France has led to around $61 million savings for both sides. The French will not release that type of data.

MDBA introduced the air-launched Scalp cruise missile in 2002 but they were not much used between 2003 and 2015. That changed in 2015 when France intensified its war against Islamic terrorism and the new Typhoon fighter-bomber was equipped to use Scalp. With a max range of 560 kilometers the 1.3 ton Scalp has a 450 kg conventional warhead and a highly accurate (capable of hitting ships or small buildings) terminal guidance system. Scalp uses GPS, INS and terrain recognition guidance systems to get close enough for the terminal guidance system to take over. Costing about $1.5 million each some 3,000 have been ordered since the late 1990s (when MBDA began marketing it) and about a hundred used. France bought 600 while Britain ordered nearly a thousand (as “Storm Shadow”) and wealthy Gulf Arab oil states bought over a thousand. Greece, Italy and Egypt also bought some. The recent use of Scalp in Syria and Mali have been successful. Britain first used Storm Shadow in combat during air campaign against Iraq during 2003. But now all the nations with Scalp/Storm Shadow are using it more frequently against terrorist targets.

But most Scalp missiles are over a decade old and still waiting to be used. This is a common problem with guided missiles which are designed for a long “shelf life”. But after a certain age it is best to refurbish and, if you can afford it, upgrade the older missiles for another decade or so of service sitting in a warehouse.

This joint refurbishment effort will not only prolong the operational superiority of the weapon against the anticipated evolving threat well into next decade but will also further strengthen Franco-British cooperation roadmap and strengthens the Franco-British strategic partnership in the armament field. -- Przemysław Juraszek




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