The MdCN missile was test-fired from Suffren, the lead ship of the French Navy’s Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, in October 2020. Credit: MBDA.
The MdCN missile can destroy high-value infrastructure targets. Credit: DGA EM.

MdCN (Missile De Croisière Naval – naval cruise missile) is a long-range, sea-launched, surface attack, stand-off cruise missile developed by MBDA systems for the French Navy. It is a naval variant of the air-launched Storm Shadow / SCALP cruise missile.

The MdCN is launched by FREMM frigates using the compact A70 SYLVER vertical launcher or torpedo tubes when installed on Barracuda submarines.

MdCN missile development

The development of the MdCN missile was initiated by MBDA, following a development and production contract award by the French Director General Administration (DGA) in December 2006.

The contract was signed for the procurement of 250 MdCN missiles intended to be installed on the French Navy’s FREMM frigates and nuclear-powered Barracuda submarines.

The detailed design review of the MdCN missile was finalised in 2008. The general architecture of the missile and mission planning were also completed during the period. The MdCN platform interfaces (surface vessel vertical launch and submarine torpedo-tube launch) were authenticated in the same year.

The aerodynamic trials of the MdCN missile were completed at ONERA’s wind tunnel facility in October 2008, and the first test firing of the missile was successfully carried out in May 2010.

The first submarine launch of the MdCN missile was carried out by the French DGA in June 2011. The results of the test helped to authenticate the MdCN in its submarine configuration. The test also helped validate the missile’s commonality concept for the two types of launch platform.

The first full firing of the MdCN missile was completed from a frigate in July 2012 at the ‘DGA Essais de missiles’ test centre in Biscarosse. The first end to end firing of the missile in its submarine configuration was achieved in October 2012. This test helped to validate the GPS guidance mode of the missile in the terminal phase.

In July 2013, the DGA conducted the first qualification firing of the MdCN missile. It was fired at the Biscarrosse missile test centre by an A70 vertical launch system simulating the launch from the frigate.

In October 2014, the French DGA conducted a successful final qualification firing for the MdCN missiles. The first operational strike of the missile was performed in April 2018 when it was launched from a FREMM frigate against a chemical weapons base in Syria.

The submarine-launched naval cruise missile was successfully test fired from the Barracuda-class Suffren nuclear attack submarine near the DGA missile test centre at Biscarrosse in October 2020.

MdCN design features

The naval version of the SCALP missile MdCN is designed to meet the French Navy’s special requirements to strike off-shore targets, including military and economic infrastructures.

The MdCN missile can be stored in ships and submarines long term. The missile is equipped with an acceleration and tilt system. It is also installed with a device change of medium (DCM) for compatibility on Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarines. The MdCN is fitted with an ammunition container vertical shooting (CTV) for the FREMM frigates.

The MdCN missile has a weight of approximately 1,400kg. It has an overall length of 6.50m and diameter of 0.5m. The missile has a range of more than 250km.

The missile is equipped with an optimised single charge warhead. The missile can carry compact loads deep into high-value enemy targets. It can neutralise or destroy weak and moderately hardened targets.

Naval cruise missile (NCM) variants

The MdCN missile was developed in two specifications to meet the requirements of the French Navy. The first variant is a vertically launched missile intended for FREMM class frigates. The second one is an underwater-launched variant for Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarines.

A sea to air transition capsule is configured in the submarine-launched version of the MdCN. The submarine version is installed with a container, which completely surrounds the missile and its booster, allowing it to be ejected through an immersed submarine’s torpedo tubes.

Both variants of the MdCN use the same missile and ejectable booster.

MdCN navigation system

The MdCN missile is installed with a navigation suite that includes an inertial measurement unit (IMU), altimeter and GPS. The navigation suite allows the missile to fly towards the target in a strategic direction.

The infrared (IR) homing head detects and identifies targets. The missile has the capability to change direction and altitude during its course of flight. It can fly through low altitudes and attitudes before striking enemy targets.

Propulsion system of MdCN

The MdCN missile is powered by a simple flow micro-turbo TR50 turbojet engine. The propulsion system gives a unique feature of high endurance, which is essential to achieve very long ranges.