Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MICA replacement into question

In the 2011 defense budget law of the french National Assembly, the deputy François Cornut-Gentille tackles the issue of the mica missile successor. According to this repport, the missile will need to be replaced between 2020 and 2025. Considering that about 10 years are required to develop and integrate such a weapon, the deputy is urging the french assembly to launch a new medium range missile program as soon as possible otherwise, the french military could have no other choice than to buy a US missile in 10 years...
The MBDA Mica Missile has entered into french Air Force service in 1996 on the Mirage 2000-5. It was also the first non-US "Fox 3" missile to be operational in NATO forces.Available in IR and EM version, it has been exported to Taiwan, Greece, UAE, Qatar for their mirage 2000-5, as well as to  Morocco (mirage F1 upgrade) and Oman (VL Mica).  Today, it is the primary Air defense missile of the Rafale for CAC and BVR engagements and it should be complemented after 2015 by the MBDA Meteor missile for very long range interception. (>100 km)

MBDA MicaEM - ©

The mica is a very versatile missile as both versions are capable of extreme maneuvering at close range thanks to  the TVC and, at the same time, able of medium range BVR engagements thanks to a very high velocity/acceleration (mach 4 reached in the few seconds), and data link.

MBDA Mica IR - ©
Besides TVC and an IIR seeker, this last point is the main difference between the Mica IR and its russian cousin, the R-27 T/ET. Indeed, the lack of data link prevents the R-27 T to be locked after launch and therefore limit its effective firing range to the range of its IR seeker. That the reason why, unlike the Mica IR, it's not a truly BVR IR missile but rather a long endurance FOX 2  intended to catch up fleeing targets at 10-15 km range.

Despite all those qualities that make it one of the most dangerous air defense missile on the battlefield today, the Mica has some drawbacks :
  • It's small and light, which is good, but that limited size also prevents the Mica to compete with the last versions of the larger AIM-120C7/D amraam when it comes to raw effective range.
  • It is very expensive due to the rather limited number of units produced, compared to the amraam
  • It has a one way datalink whereas up&down datalinks are becoming the norm for BVR missiles.

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