The EU has approved a second missile systems project that will see five European countries develop a multi-role interceptor for addressing a wide range of ballistic missile threats.
On 12 November, the Council of the European Union gave the green light to the TWISTER (Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based TheatER surveillance) capability project for implementation within the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework.
The new endo-atmospheric interceptor will address a wide range of threats including, manoeuvring ballistic missiles with intermediate ranges, hypersonic or high-supersonic cruise missiles, hypersonic gliders, and more conventional targets such as next-generation fighter aircraft. This Interceptor will integrate existing and future land and naval systems.
The international missile defence project will seek to secure European Defence Fund support to help develop the European multi-role interceptor, which will be brought into service by 2030.
In addressing this capability gap, the interceptor component of the TWISTER project will ultimately become a key element in the contribution made by European countries to NATO's territorial, population and armed forces defence mission while meeting the European Union's level of ambition in the field of missile defence. By rationalising and pooling capabilities, the PESCO Member States will benefit from an operational capability in a class of its own and guarantee their strategic autonomy and freedom of action.
Countries that are currently pursuing hypersonic missile technology include the US, which is developing an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. China is looking to develop hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles, as is Russia, which has tested various prototypes.
“This next generation interceptor project provides a unique opportunity for Europeans to converge their efforts in the field of missile defence and to secure sovereignty in an area vital to their strategic autonomy,” says MBDA CEO Éric Béranger. “These high-end interceptors are technologically demanding and their development will represent a qualitative leap forward for Europe’s entire missile sector. Our industrial model as a European champion gives us the critical mass necessary to deliver this challenging project through cooperation with our European industrial partners.”
MBDA is committed to meeting this need through next-generation technologies and architectures building on national and company funded studies which have been conducted over the past five years. MBDA will also draw on its experience of industrial co-operation at European level, its long heritage of leading complex air defence programmes and its solid industrial relationships across the wider European landscape to establish a skills and capability led team.
The TWISTER project is the second missile systems project to be supported under the new European defence agenda following the Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) capability programme which became part of PESCO in November 2018 and for which MBDA put forward its 5th-generation ground combat system, which it says is the only solution under European design authority that gives frontline combat units the ability to fire beyond the direct line of sight while maintaining man-in-the-loop decision-making.
The PESCO framework is designed to deepen defence co-operation between EU Member States. But with the UK scheduled to leave the EU, it is unclear whether UK-based firms will be able to benefit from the European Defence Fund, which supports EU defence-related research projects. Some have pushed for the UK to negotiate access to the fund and for PESCO to be opened up to 'third-country' participation.
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