Le Bourget 2017: MBDA launches the SmartGlider family
MBDA is launching a new weapon family to complete its portfolios. Smart Gliders are non-propelled missiles that are planing and exist in two heavy and light variants.
The proliferation of means of denial of access has become one of the major concerns of modern air forces. While current armaments such as SCALP may partly address the need to counter these systems, MBDA has found it necessary to develop a new family of weapons to adapt to the threat.
The SmartGlider range was born with this in mind. These are non-propelled missiles, says the European manufacturer, with folding wings enabling them to hover over a distance of up to 100 km. Unlike the currently used GBU kit bombs, SmartGliders are fully integrated weapons with a dedicated load. The heavy version of the SmartGlider is 1200 kg and has a military load of 1 000 kg, the light version is 120 kg for two meters long. Both types of weaponry are designed to handle a wide range of targets. The SmartGlider "light" can strike objectives ranging from vehicles to small infrastructures. The SmartGlider "heavy" can strike important infrastructure. MBDA announces that it wants to exceed the performances of the bombs using Mk84 and BLU 109 bomb bodies.
MBDA has also developed a "Hexabomb Smart Launcher" (HSL) carrying system to carry six SmartGlider Light. The HSL is also a connected system which should allow to manage the strikes and to facilitate the work of the crew. A fighter such as Rafale could carry up to three HSLs, a Typhoon two and a Mirage 2000 one. Modern hunters could take 12 to 18 SmartGliders. Opening the way to saturating strikes. The range, allows to stay outside the air defense bubbles of the most widespread systems. The HSL must allow a reduced number of hunters to simultaneously handle a large number of targets, particularly during missions to suppress enemy air defenses.
MBDA is considering several modes of guidance for SmartGliders. The standard version will be equipped with an optronic homing head with three channels. Electromagnetic guidance is also envisaged to adapt to threats. The weapon will be "shoot and forget" allowing the crew of the fighter to quickly pass from one target to another. However, a data link could be used to modify the target of the weapon during its flight.
The SmartGlider family is the result of an initiative by MBDA but according to the manufacturer, several customers have expressed interest. The missile is aimed at both the European and export markets. The idea is to have a coherent and competitive portfolio. The SmartGlider will be placed between the cruise missiles such as the Scalp / Storm Shadow or the future British / French FC / ASW, which can handle targets several hundred kilometers away and lighter and short range weapons such as Brimstone Including dealing with moving targets.
MBDA announced today that it has reached a sufficient level of maturity to launch the SmartGlider development. It remains to find a customer or clients who could invest to acquire this new capacity.