The German supplier MBDA has big plans to provide defence systems in Europe but it’s facing stiff competition.
You might not know MBDA Deutschland - a leading company in defence armament - but the Bavaria-based company has big ambitions for the European market.
With currently around 1,300 employees, MBDA is a major supplier to the German armed forces. The company produces missiles and missile equipment such as warheads, guidance systems, and propulsion systems.
MBDA is also a supplier to foreign countries. For example, in October, it was chosen by the Korea Aerospace Industries to arm helicopters with the Mistral ATAM anti-air missile system.
However, the real boost for MBDA is expected to come from the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI).
The ESSI was launched in 2022 by Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The programme’s main aim is to strengthen Europe's air defences
and that means acquiring more equipment - including missiles and air defence systems - than the continent currently has.
Currently, 19 European states participate in the ESSI with the notable exceptions being France, Poland, Italy and Spain.
France and Germany have two different views on the best equipment, systems and time frame for the development of Europe’s aerial defences.
Berlin argues it is more pragmatic to invest in tried and tested solutions manufactured in the US like Raytheon’s Patriot missile batteries.
Paris believes it is safer in the long term to rely on technology developed in Europe including a system it has developed with Italy.
MBDA is a historical partner of Raytheon, supplying it with some components.
"We're revitalising our relationship with Patriot so that we can increase our production," Thomas Gottschild, MBDA Deutschland’s managing director, told the French economic newspaper Les Echos.
"The Bundeswehr (the German army) has been using the Patriot system since the 1980s and has a special relationship with Israel, but as Chairman of MBDA Germany, my main objective remains European cooperation,” he added.
The ESSI is one of the most ambitious defence projects in European history and is expected to be worth billions of euros. Hence, the stiff competition from French companies such as Thales and Airbus Defence and Space for the ESSI contract.
In addition to supplying equipment like the Meteor air-to-air missile or the SCALP EG ground-attack missile, both used by the French Air Force and the British Royal Air Force, MBDA has also invested in research and development.
The company said in June that it has developed a new missile system to intercept hypersonic threats dubbed Aquila.
A reminder on hypersonic weapons: What distinguishes them is their ability to change trajectory after they’ve been launched and their capability to evade radar detection by flying low in the atmosphere
It’s part of Hydis (Hypersonic Defense Interceptor), a European programme that brings together a consortium of 19 companies.