SOFINS 2023 – MBDA: Akeron MP naval applications, a new role for the antitank missile

Paolo Valpolini

Developed by MBDA for land applications, the Akeron MP missile, formerly MMP, is being employed in new domains.

At SOFINS 2023 it was possible to see the Akeron MP missile installed on a Special Forces rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) belonging to the French Navy FORFUSCO (FORce maritime des FUSiliers marins et COmmandos). The Fusiliers Marins ensure the protection of Naval bases and nuclear facilities in France and abroad, while the Commandos carry out direct actions and reconnaissance in depth. Overall some 700 SF operators man the seven Commando units, five of them, Jaubert, Trépel, de Montfort, de Penfentenyo and Hubert, tasked for assault missions while the remaining two, Kieffer and Ponchardier, play a support role.

« The Akeron MP missile can be embarked on the ECUME produced by Zodiac Milpro »

One of their favourite platforms is definitely the ECUME (Embarcation de Commandos à Usage Multiple et Embarquable, multi-role and boardable commando boat), produced by Zodiac Milpro and in service with the Commando Ponchardier. Based on the ZH-930 CDO RHIB, it is 9.3 meters long, 3 meters wide, it is powered by two diesel engines and can reach a maximum speed of 40 knots with an endurance of over 200 nautical miles. As for its firepower, until now it could embark two machine guns, either 7.62 or 12.7 mm, or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher in place of one of them. Now, thanks to a further development carried out by MBDA on its Akeron MP, the latter missile can be embarked on the ECUME and used to hit high-value targets at long range, over 4,000 meters.

« A key upgrade that allows using the Akeron MP in the naval mode »

The missile could be seen installed on the ECUME shown in the outdoor exhibition, while at the MBDA stand the system was also visible, with a simulation being shown to illustrate the concept. The key upgrade that allows using the Akeron MP in the naval mode is a stabilisation algorithm developed purposely to compensate the wave-induced movement of the boat. The stabilisation works on the missile optronic seeker, allowing the operator to easily keep the crosshair on the target before launch. The missile firing post is installed over a mast through a conical interface. Currently the configuration sees the operator shooting while standing, however discussions are ongoing with the French Navy to evaluate a seat on a shorter mast, something similar to what MBDA provides for its Mistral 3 VSHORAD missile.

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« Flexibility of the Akeron MP used on board a RHIB »

At SOFINS a specific naval scenario was available on the system simulator that allowed seeing the flexibility of the Akeron MP used on board a RHIB; while closing to the coast the operator selected its primary target, the control tower of the harbour to be attacked. A first missile was launched on this static structure, which therefore didn’t need any in-flight correction by the operator, the missile flying basically in a fire-and-forget mode, maintaining however the link with the firing post and the operator through the fibre optic cable. Thanks to this during the flight the operator could notice a main battle tank at the base of the tower, a target of opportunity not to be missed. A second missile was quickly loaded and launched, this time the operator maintaining control until the last moment should the tank move. The first firings on the move are planned for late 2023.

The ECUME will definitely not be the only French Navy platform that will embark this weapon system. While on the SF RHIB this will have a potential attack role, on major platforms such as FREMM frigates, amphibious ships and, potentially, offshore patrol vessels, it will be mainly used to protect the naval unit against fast attack craft and similar, especially when operating in brown waters or when at anchor in front of the coast. Its flexibility is due to its tandem shaped-charge warhead that is also designed to destroy structures as well as to neutralise troops in the open, thanks to the various attack modes and angles available to the operator.

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Photos courtesy P. Valpolini