MBDA Italia Managing Director: towards a positive 2021

By EDR On-Line Editorial Team

Following the Press Conference by MBDA CEO Eric Béranger, Lorenzo Mariani, Executive Group Director Sales and Business Development MBDA and Managing Director of MBDA Italia met Italian journalists, in person and online, to detail the situation and programmes of the Italian branch of the European missile company.

“Notwithstanding the overall situation 2020 proved to be a positive year for us, as we reached all parameters, exceeding EBIT at MBDA Italy level, and I am talking about the forecasted result established before the pandemic, not an adjusted figure,” Mariani said. As in all other MBDA nations, also in Italy the domestic market allowed to compensate the inevitable reduction of the export market share due to the difficult situation generated by the COVID crisis.

“However Q1 2021 allowed us to recover most of the delayed contracts that were postponed in 2020, such as those linked to the MEKO A200EN for Egypt, the Aster refurbishment for an undisclosed Far East nation, the Tamandaré corvettes for Brazil, and the Rafale contract for Greece,” MBDA Italy Managing Director states, adding that this showed how much the issue was just a minor delay and not a cancellation, the aforementioned export contracts representing around 90% of those moved to the right during 2020.

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The Italian market was key for MBDA Italy in 2020. “In late November 2020 we signed the contract for the Teseo Mk2/E, an important step as it marks the renewal of one of the national production segments, which in the past led to considerable export successes,” he says, adding that initially the work will concentrate on Italian Navy requirements, export being foreseen in the second half of the current decade. The decision by the Italian Air Force to proceed with the Mid-Life Upgrade of the Storm Shadow munitions inventory represents another important result for MBDA Italia, the first trance having been signed in late 2020 and the second in early 2021. With the decision from Italy to facilitate the export of two FREMM frigates, allowing ships n.9 and n.10 destined to the Italian Navy to be delivered to Egypt. “These have exactly the same configuration that was designed for Italy, with the exception of some NATO-related equipment, therefore they maintain their SAMM-ESD with Aster missile-based air defence and their Teseo-based anti-ship capabilities.”

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Looking at programmes currently under development, he noticed that the two successful firings respectively of the Marte ER in early 2020 and of the CAMM ER in the last part of that same year were good news for the prosecution of the development and qualification work. The Marte ER is currently being developed first to meet Qatar needs, that nations aiming at deploying the missile both in coastal batteries as well as on board its NH-90 naval helicopters.

Production wise 2020 was a successful year: “our Fusaro facility produced over 270 seekers for the Meteor missile, overall production having now exceeded 1,600.” Systems to be embarked on Qatari ship and on Italian Navy PPAs are produced according to schedule, and are tested before being installed on ships at Fincantieri shipyards.

MBDA Italia is pursuing a deep modernisation of its facilities, to cope both with COVID-related issues as well as with the increase of workload. This is true for all facilities, such as the aforementioned Fusaro, the Rome site, and La Spezia and Aulla facilities, the latter being that here work on pyrotechnic devices and warhead integration is carried out. Last year MBDA Italia workforce increased of some 80 positions, further 100-110 new working posts being forecasted for 2021. “A strong national company makes the group stronger, which in turn strengthens the national company,” Mariani explained.

Looking at 2021, the MBDA Italia Managing Director could mention some good news. The first is linked to the Italian decision to go forward with FREMMs n. 11 and n. 12, which will replace the two sold to Egypt, the second is the signature of the SAMP/T NG contract together with France, “which marks a new phase of the cooperation started in the 1980s, which was one of the three founding pillars that led to the birth of MBDA.” MBDA Italia is currently in discussion with the Italian MoD for the SAMP/T upgrade contract, the missiles in stock with the Italian Army and Navy reaching the limit of their operational live, and need to have part of their pyrotechnics replaced. “This might be the SAMP/T year, the Italian Air Force having decided to join the Army on the SAMP/T NG programme, and we are currently discussing the roadmap.” Another programme that should start soon is the MLU of the Meteor missile, the first weapons having been delivered 12 years ago. As for export, numerous opportunities should be finalised, a handful of them having a direct impact on MBDA Italia activities.

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Looking into the future, Mr. Mariani follows with a positive feeling the interest that Italy is showing for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW). “This year should also mark the freezing of the Tempest programme roadmap, MBDA Italia being involved through Leonardo, which acts as system integrator, as well as through MBDA UK, with which we constantly discuss to coordinate the best possible cooperation between the UK and the Italian branches of the group,” Mr. Mariani says.

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MBDA Italia is proposing itself for key roles the effect management system, which is the system coordinating effectors, as well as in remote carriers, Mr. Mariani highlighting the existence of a Chinese wall between the two sixth generation aircraft systems programmes, the SCAF/FCAS and the Tempest, MBDA being involved in both. “However I think that soon or late, at least on the effectors, we might see a convergence in the coming years.” .

In the Questions & Answers session the MBDA Managing Director elaborated on a number of other programmes. Talking on the Swiss air defence requirement, he highlighted that this export campaign is lead by the French Government and industry, emphasizing that the recent meeting of the French Minister of Defence with her counterparts in Berne came a few days after the signature of the SAMP/T NG contract, showing the strong support of the programme partners in this new generation air defence system, which will feature new command and control, radar and munitions, a quantum leap compared to the in service version which allows a much stronger positioning versus its competitor.

Coming to the FC/ASW programme, the requirements are under maturation but for the time being he excludes a hypersonic solution, the programme timeline being incompatible with a hypersonic weapon development. Considering the various applications, he mentioned a supersonic requirement on one end and a stealthness on the other end, at speed expense. Those requirements should consolidate when, in the near future, Italy is expected to get closer to the programme, as it has a requirement for replacing the Storm Shadow and it intends acquiring a naval deep strike capability. The Italian Navy has also expressed a requirement for a Marte ER solution, and it’s a question of time and budget to launch a programme. On the combat aircraft version, as part of the Typhoon capabilities evolution process, MBDA is looking to answer the ASuW requirement with the Marte ER, starting with the Eurofighter P4E phase two stage. MBDA is already working on the coastal battery and NH90 helicopter-launched version of the Marte ER for Qatar, and is offering the new missile for the German Navy’s NH90 AsuW capability.

Photos courtesy MBDA and BAE Systems