The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract to AgustaWestland to integrate future anti-surface guided weapon (FASGW) Heavy and Light missile systems onto the Royal Navy's AW159 Wildcat helicopters.
Under the £90m contract, the company will integrate, test and install two missiles - the MBDA FASGW (Heavy) / ANL (Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) / Anti Navire Léger) and the Thales Light Multirole Missile (LMM) (FASGW (Light)) - onto 28 AW159 Wildcat helicopters by 2020.
UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said: "FASGW state-of-the-art missiles will provide Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters with unparalleled strike capabilities."
He added: "These missiles are also evidence of our close partnership and growing interoperability with France.
"This was further strengthened yesterday when the [former] Defence Secretary signed further understandings to bolster co-operation for acquisition and support of military equipment."
The integration of the missiles is expected to enable the AW159 Wildcat to aim at a wide range of surface targets, from small high speed surface craft to large surface vessels, in addition to coastal and land targets.
In a bid to boost mission flexibility, the AW159 Wildcat can also carry a mixed load of LMM launchers and FASGW(H)/ANL missiles.
The MBDA FASGW(Heavy)/ANL integrates a high speed, two-way data-link that communicates the images 'seen' by the missile's seeker to the operator, who can initiate an autonomous engagement or remain in control of the missile for the duration of the flight.
The MBDA missile's optional, man in the loop monitor and control facility offers new capabilities, including in-flight re-targeting; final aim point correction and refinement; and safe abort.
The missile will be able to engage targets situated out of direct line of sight when the launch platform is able to benefit from third party target designation or laser illumination.
The Thales LMM is capable of offering a rapid reaction to a range of surface naval threats, from small vessels and fast inshore attack craft to on-land surface threats.
Currently, AgustaWestland is building 62 Wildcat helicopters for the UK MoD, of which 28 are intended for the Royal Navy and 34 for the British Army.
Aimed at replacing the Lynx helicopter, 33 of the overall 62 aircraft on order have already been delivered, including 12 for the navy and 21 for the army.
Image: Computer-generated representation of a Wildcat equipped with next-generation missiles. Photo: courtesy of AgustaWestland - A Finmeccanica Company.