Roxel Expects Rocket Motor Orders From Lockheed
By PIERRE TRAN — Paris — Roxel, the Anglo-French missile propulsion company, expects to receive orders from Lockheed Martin in the next couple of months to build motors for guided unitary rocket launchers, Francis Rodriguez, vice president for sales and business development, said at the Eurosatory trade show.
The rocket motors will be part of France’s acquisition of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS U), a U.S. long-range artillery weapon armed with a unitary warhead, dubbed Lance-Roquette Unitaire (LRU) in French. France is converting 26 launchers to the unitary systems, Rodriguez said.
The acquisition of GMLRS is a government-to-government deal with the United States, under which Lockheed Martin will deliver rockets with new warheads, while European industry builds the motors locally and upgrades existing MLRS launchers in France and Germany.
The U.S. rocket motor orders had been expected soon after the Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA) French procurement office signed Sept 23 the order for launch and realization of the LRU system for the French Army.
But the order from Lockheed Martin had to wait for the start of the full rate production 5 under the American GMLRS program.
A contract from Lockheed Martin, which is expected at the end of June, will allow tooling up to prepare for local assembly of a first batch of 252 rocket motors, with a first delivery due in early 2012. A follow-up contract in August would allow Roxel to start full assembly.
A contract for 252 LRU rockets is estimated to be worth about $25 million-$30 million, an American official has said.
France is buying the precision artillery as the French Army phases out the unguided MLRS M26 weapon, which uses cluster munitions banned under the Oslo Treaty.
A Franco-German group comprising EADS, KraussMaffei Wegmann and Thales has bid to supply its European fire control system for the unitary launchers, industry executives said.
Although there is no competition for the fire control system, French procurement officials asked for pricing information from the U.S. government on Lockheed Martin’s Universal Fire Control Systems, used for the GMLRS and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, as an alternative to the European offer.
“Lockheed Martin briefed French Army officials at Eurosatory on Friday that the company could upgrade four French M270 launchers with the Universal Fire Control System to support their deployment and operational requirement in 2012,” Lockheed Martin program director Al Duchesne said.
Beyond the GMLRS program, Roxel is looking to develop its relationship with Lockheed Martin, particularly in supplying motors for a new generation of insensitive munitions (IM).
In Britain, Roxel UK has been down-selected to supply an IM motor for the Hellfire antitank missile for the Apache helicopter, flown by the British Army Air Corps.
“We hope to supply the motor for the Hellfire IM,” Rodriguez said. Those orders could land in the next few months.
France also operates Hellfire missiles for its Tiger attack helicopters, and if the DGA orders the new batch, Roxel will propose the IM version on those weapons.
In the United States, Lockheed Martin has picked Roxel as a second supplier after Aerojet for propellant in its bid for the new Army-Navy joint missile, called the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), Rodriguez said.
“Roxel has a foot in France and the U.K, and if we win the JAGM and Hellfire contracts with Lockheed Martin, that would help in the United States,” he said.
Roxel UK supplies motors for the Brimstone IM anti-armor guided missile, which is in full-scale production.
Roxel is jointly owned by missile maker MBDA and SNPE, the state owned powder and explosives manufacturer. After years of stalled talks, Safran is expected in the coming months to buy out the government’s share in SNPE, which would make Safran and MBDA joint owners of Roxel.
Kate Brannen contributed to this report.