DIMDEX 2024 – MBDA pushes Marte ER in the Middle East, looking to Qatar achievements and region prospects

Luca Peruzzi

During the DIMDEX 2024 exhibition, Leonardo celebrated the 2,500 flying hours achievements of the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s fleet of NH90 helicopters, showcasing the NFH90 naval version equipped with weapon systems, namely the MBDA Marte ER long-range, lightweight anti-ship missile

“We have recently delivered the first batch of Marte ER missiles in the helicopter-launched (H/C) variant to the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), while follow-on batches are under production,” Giovanni Soccodato, Executive Group Director Sales and Business Development at MBDA and Managing Director MBDA Italia, said.

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“We have already successfully completed the delivery of the Marte ER missiles in the naval/ground (N/G) launched version for the mobile coastal defence system (MCDS) in service with the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces (QENF).” Developed based on the latest coastal defence requirements and capable to operate with over-the-horizon third parties targeting data, the MCDS has an open architecture design capable to operate with the MBDA family of present and future antiship missiles. In addition to the Marte ER, the QENF configuration also includes MM40 Block 3 Exocet missiles, which delivery is expected to be completed soon. “We are looking to other potential requirements in the country, alongside in-service and integrated logistic support,” the MBDA representative highlighted.

The Marte ER uses a common airframe that, thanks to an adaption kit, develops into the Naval/Ground (N/G) and Helicopter (H/C) variants, main differences being the launching canister used by the N/G variant, as well as the operational software. This allows a common operational footprint and logistic support, helping the customers to benefit from both variants procurement.

“We are currently campaigning the weapon system in the Middle East region, being requested in both the helicopter launched and the ship/ground-based variants for at least one customer, alongside another potential customer requesting an anti-ship missile helicopter launched capability,” Soccodato highlighted to EDR On-Line without providing further details. An NH90 in the NFH version was presented by the QEAF during the recent WDS 2024 exhibition in Saudi Arabia, and EDR On-Line understood there is a strong interest for this platform and anti-ship capability in the country. Both the N/G and H/C variants could be requested by the UAE as the latter is already a customer of the Marte Mk2/N and EDR On-Line understood has shown interest in a helicopter-launched capability. The UAE Navy has currently in service Super Puma helicopters capable to launch MBDA Exocet MM40 missiles, and in the past has shown interest in the NH90 NFH platform.

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“MBDA Italia is continuing to deliver the shipborne Aster Block1 (and VL MICA) missiles to the QENF alongside the shipborne and ground launched Exocet anti-ship weapon system, with Aster deliveries completion planned for 2024.” The Qatar Armed Forces were able to rely on the MCDS system during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, having completed major deliveries to ensure operational readiness in time for the event. In the air domain, MBDA is expecting additional missile orders if the QEAF will procure another batch of Rafale combat aircraft. The company is also exhibiting and locally propose the new Akeron MP weapon system, being the only 5th generation combat proven surface-to-surface missile in service that has been operationally tested and proven in a variety of extreme and complex conditions, in both ground and naval applications.

Both the Meteor and the Storm Shadow were showcased at the QEAF booth, but the inventory of supplied air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons for both the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon is more powerful, encompassing Brimstone, Spear and Mica.

“Opportunities for air defence systems have raised in all the Middle East region and we are campaigning our products with strong interest by local countries,” Soccodato added without providing details other than the interest covers all domains. Saudi Arabia is publicly known to have a requirement for new light frigates, which weapons package could be satisfied with the whole range of surface-to-air missiles including VL MICA NG (New Generation), Aster and CAMM families, as well as with surface-to-surface weapon systems. Potential requirements could also come from the GBAD segment with VL MICA NG and CAMM ER.

“We are also looking to potential needs in the UAE, mainly in the naval and air domains, to satisfy not only national but also export requirements,” Soccodato said without providing specific details but EDR On-Line understood that the implied reference regards both the UAE Naval Forces and the EDGE group companies export potentialities, such as for equipping the naval platforms offered by Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB), without forgetting the strong air domain sector, with the weapons package for the Dassault Rafale programme.

Photos by L. Peruzzi