A record year for MBDA Italia

Luca Peruzzi

“The year 2023 has been a record year for MBDA Italia. We doubled the order intake from 1.17 to 2.38 billion Euro, with revenues in line with the predicted budget and growing profitability. This in addition to an orderbook increasing from 3.18 to 4.53 billion Euro, alongside the work force reaching 1852 employees with 254 new hirings, and the enlarging and enhancements to company’s facilities,” Giovanni Soccodato, MBDA Executive Group Director Sales and Business Development and Managing Director MBDA Italia said during the annual results media conference in Rome on 22 March

“Thanks also to the Italian contribution to the many products created in cooperation, which allow skills and new technological capabilities to be integrated effectively and efficiently, reducing economic risk and implementation times, MBDA was able to express record numbers in 2023.”

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The jump in orders was the combination of various important contracts at both national and international levels coming together in the same year. “The most important developments were registered in air defence programmes, including the procurement of the SAMP/T NG GBAD (Ground Base Air Defence) for both the Italian Army and Air Force, in the latter case as the latest system customer, together with the procurement and support for the Aster family missiles including the new Aster Block 1NT for all three Italian Services, in parallel to the procurement of the CAMM ER-based MAADS and Grifo shorter range GBADs respectively for the Italian Army and Air Force,” Soccodato highlighted.

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In addition to the Horizon Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) programme contribution, the head of MBDA Italia indicated the Teseo Mk2/A MCO (Maintenance in Operational Conditions) contract regarding the refurbishment of the Italian Navy in-service Teseo Mk2/A munitions to fill the gap until the availability of the new Teseo Mk2/E (Evolved). The air sector also contributed “with study developments for the Meteor missile MLU programme and the first studies for the technological development of next generation effectors for the GCAP (FCAS) platform.” On the export side, the focus has been on Aster and CAMM sale programmes, among which, the CAMM family missiles contracts for the Polish MoD.

“Key milestones were also reached in the Teseo Mk2/E (Evolved) development programme. We completed the Programme Design Review as well as fully successful wind tunnel tests in the US,” Soccodato unveiled. This in addition to the launch of CAMM ER production and SAAM ESD deliveries for both the Italian Navy and Qatar Emiri Naval Force (QENF), alongside those of Aster upgraded (MLU) munitions.

Targets for 2024

“The year 2024 will continue to see us committed to increase production volumes, with further orders and investments on the rise. It won’t be a record year but a preparation period for the future and consolidation of the backlog. MBDA Italia will be engaged in new products development responding to emerging operational needs with innovative technological solutions. To support these activities, new hires are also planned this year in our three sites. These will bring MBDA Italia’s workforce to exceed 2,000 units during the year, with an increase of over 10% compared to 2023,” Soccodato highlighted.

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“In addition to further batches of new Aster family missiles, SAMP/T NG systems and MAADS CAMM ER for the Italian Air Force, MBDA Italia is expected to receive the kick off contract for the development of the new very short-range air defence (V-SHORAD) missile for the Italian Armed Forces in both infantry and vehicle-mounted configurations. A key programme not only for the Italian MoD but also for the company’s multi-layer air defence capacity.”

“Another key activity in 2024, will be the contribution to the FREMM EVO (Evolved) programme, which has recently got the green light by the Italian Parliament. Among requested activities, we have been asked to evaluate the installation fit of the CAMM ER on board the new frigate, in addition to the Aster missiles family,” the head of MBDA unveiled, without providing further details.

“With a future perspective and in line with the objective of maintaining and developing Italian industrial skills, the company will participate in the European cooperation project HYDIS² (HYpersonic Defense Interceptor Study 2) which contract is expected to be filed in the incoming weeks by OCCAR-EA.” Heading the Italian national team, MBDA Italia will also be leader of the activities concerning the definition of the physical architecture of the interceptor (Aquila) and integration studies with launch platforms, as well as coordinating studies on advanced materials and radio-frequency sensors, distinctive skills of the company.

“In the air warfare segment, MBDA Italia is expected to participate to the Meteor MLU as well as to its integration on the F-35 stealth aircraft.” Partner countries are expected to decide before the end of 2024 on the scope and scale of a Meteor MLU.

“MBDA Italia is also looking to additional contracts for the further technological developments to define advanced effectors, suitable for use on board the GCAP sixth generation air combat systems programme.”

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In the air-to-ground weapon sector, MBDA Italia is expecting to launch the development of the rotary-wing based Marte ER lightweight anti-ship missile version for the Italian Navy.

“With a view to full industrial and operational achievements for the European defence, MBDA Italia – thanks to the decision taken by Italy in 2023 to join the current FR/UK FC/ASW (Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon) programme – will contribute to the creation of a sovereign capability deep attack and heavy anti-ship of new generation, capable of countering advanced threats.

On the export side we are looking at sale campaigns of the Albatros NG, based on the CAMM ER, as well as of the Marte ER not only in the Middle East (together with the Mk2/N) but also in Europe, alongside service support and integrated logistic support possibilities in the Middle East. Further opportunities are also arising in the Far East for the naval SAAM ESD air defence system,” the MBDA representative added.

Developments, deliveries, and achievements in 2024

In 2024, Soccodato expects to achieve key milestones in air defence and naval programmes: the first live firing of the Aster B1NT as part of the SAMP/T NG programme, the qualification of the Italian Army Grifo air defence system with the (final) CAMM ER live firing and the first development firings for the Teseo Mk2/E.

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“As part of urgent requirements to get enough air defence munitions in a reduced timeline, we are working to be contracted and speeding up the creation of a second Aster assembly and maintenance line for new Block 1NT missiles at the Italian Armed Force joint ammunition centre (CIMA) at Aulla, near La Spezia, as well as a seeker integration line at Fusaro for the new munition,” the MBDA Italia MD unveiled.

“We also advance on creating an ammunition integration centre with pyric facilities for the CAMM ER under the latest cooperation agreement signed in January 2024 with the Agenzia Industrie Difesa (AID) – a government production agency under Italian MoD vigilance – at the latter Noceto facilities near Parma.” Managed (with working force) by AID, this site will also conduct CAMM ER maintenance activities for Italian and foreign customers. “We are also working on establishing a CAMM ER forebody assembly line at our facilities to speed assembly and deliveries,” Soccodato added. MBDA Italia is planning to deliver the first Albatros NG in 2024 to an undisclosed naval export customer, but EDR On-Line has already reported the customer being the Pakistani Navy. The MBDA Italia MD also remarked that potential clients support sales might materialise.

These and other initiatives make MBDA Italia one of the players of cooperation in the missile sector at a European level, cooperation being also at the centre of the recent European Defense Industrial Strategy (EDIS). “EDIS fully confirms the need to have projects based on the development of innovative products that are the result of common requirements: the same spirit from which MBDA came to life.”

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“In parallel to new programmes and enlarged production volumes, in the last years, MBDA Italia has been involved in acquiring new spaces as well as upgrade and/or develop new facilities for laboratories and production/integration lines. This will continue in 2024 as already anticipated with important developments in all the sites, especially at Fusaro and La Spezia,” Soccodato added, together with new developments for the personnel both in term of workforce attraction and retention. “We signed an important agreement for the second level management as well as a focus on welfare themes. This will also contribute to the establishment of integrated programme teams to enhance and speed up activities. In 2024, we expect to further reinforce welfare plans, as well as contributing to the learning and development curve to attract and maintain young personnel with dedicated education for management.”

Photyos courtesy MBDA, L. Peruzzi, P. Valpolini