Joint Complex Weapons Agreement: France and UK Shape a Weapons Modernization Program


2015-11-07 The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) set in motion in the past decade an approach to shaping a weapons enterprise which has become a key part of UK integrated air power.

“Team Complex Weapons” has been described as follows on the MBDA website:

Team CW defines an approach to delivering the UK’s Complex Weapons requirements in an affordable manner that also ensures a viable industrial capacity with MOD being the architects of the sector strategy.

The first implementation of this approach is through the MOD–MBDA Portfolio Management Agreement, which has been independently evaluated as offering £1.2Bn of benefit to MOD over the course of the next 10 years.

This Agreement aims to transform the way in which CW business is conducted by MOD with its main supplier. At the heart of this is a joint approach to the delivery of the required capability based on an open exchange of information and flexibility in the means of delivery. It is therefore anticipated that the Agreement will be consistent with the future direction of acquisition reform within MOD and is well positioned to respond positively to the conclusions of the SDSR.

At the Farnbourgh Air Show in 2010 a media briefing held by MBDA provided a good overview on the Team CW approach.

The business model is of interest, not only for shaping a key ally’s approach to shaping future capability but in terms of being a potential harbinger for how MOD will handle efforts to maintain capabilities in the face of fiscal stringencies.

Lord Drayson in his formulation of the defense industrial strategy forged a number of initiatives, one of which was Team CW.  The idea was to bring MOD into closer partnership with its weapons providers and supply chain to shape evolving capabilities in the industry with an eye to enhanced efficiencies but at the same time ensuring UK operational sovereignty in this key area of future military capability.

Storm Shadow is a British, French and Italian air-launched cruise missile, manufactured by MBDA. Recent enhancements of the Storm Shadow / SCALP EG include the capability to relay target information just before impact, utilization of one-way (link-back) datalink, to relay battle damage assessment information back to the host aircraft. This upgrade is already under development under a French DGA contract. Another feature planned for insertion into the weapon is in-flight retargeting capability, utilizing a two-way datalink. Credit Video: MBDA

The baseline agreement was signed in June 2006 between MBDA, QinetiQ, Roxel and Thales UK as well as other members of the weapons supply chain to work with MOD in shaping development of future weapons.  The idea has been to share risk, guide investment and clarify early for MOD what procurement choices are optimal for its point of view.

At the heart of the concept is to try to bridge the gap between industry and MOD in reducing risk and enhancing effective procurement.  Obviously there are a number of challenges ranging for Intellectual Property ownership, investment sharing between government and diversity of private sector competitors to the question of the relationship between Team CW, MOD and the companies, such as Raytheon who are outside of the arrangement.

The UK MoD has created a close working relationship with industry to provide for the complex weapons necessary to enable the strike force. Now that agreement has been expanded to encompass new weapons to be built jointly with France through MBDA.

According to a story on the UK Ministry of Defence website published on November 3, 2015:

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has today unveiled a new agreement with France that will help pave the way for the next generations of missiles.

 As Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Defence, visits London to reaffirm Anglo-French relations, this agreement allows for the sharing of certain technologies to aid the development of future generations of missiles developed by missile contractor MBDA. This includes the helicopter-launched anti-ship weapon, termed Sea Venom and other future national and joint programs to meet British and French military requirements over the next decade and beyond.

 This new Intergovernmental Agreement builds on increasing collaboration in this area since 2010. It will allow closer working and information sharing on MBDA’s missile technologies while providing the necessary legal assurance to both governments on issues such as the protection of national data and security of supply…..

It follows work carried out by both countries with MBDA to create Centres of Excellence, consolidating their specialist design and engineering skills. Four of these centers are being established at first, for Weapon Controllers and Test Equipment in France, and for Datalinks and Actuators in the UK; another four, on complex warheads: guidance and navigation systems; algorithms; and software will follow.

Signed in 2010, the Lancaster House agreement was brought into existence to solidify the relationship between the two allies and provide greater defense cooperation.

For an article which addresses the UK Complex Weapons approach as well as having several videos of the weapons involved, see the following: