Airbus Defence and Space

Security & Defence All features

Ballistic missile defence: the necessary response to a new threat

Tomorrow, the deployment of anti-missile defence systems could meet the emerging need to resort to space to protect European countries and populations from new threats.

In November 2010, the heads of states of NATO nations decided that the Alliance would develop a missile defence capability by expanding the scope of NATO’s current Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme’s command, control and communications capabilities beyond the protection of NATO deployed forces to also cover protection of NATO’s European populations, territory and forces.

Ballistic missile defence is an inherent part of Airbus Defence and Space’s core business, along with deterrence, access to space and satellites. The company is the undisputed European leader in these programmes. It provides the space and exo-atmospheric (upper tier) segment of the AIRBUS Group portfolio, sharply distinguishing the Group from other European aerospace companies.

Airbus Defence and Space is recognised as having the crucial specialist capability for development of satellite-based early-warning systems to detect, localise and characterise ballistic activity in its initial stage. On behalf of the French MoD, the company developed the first optical ballistic surveillance early-warning demonstrator in Europe named SPIRALE, launched in February 2009.

In the field of exo-atmospheric defence systems, Airbus Defence and Space has long-standing leadership in ballistic battlespace management, flight-testing and discrimination capabilities as well as the industrial resource to deliver essential elements (booster stacks, propulsion systems, interceptor ‘kill vehicles’) of the interception system. In anticipation of future operational requirements, Airbus Defence and Space is actively applying its research and technological competencies to define projects covering all aspects of interception systems, from threat analysis, engagement and intercept scenario models to design and development of the major system components. Notably, Airbus Defence and Space is working on the design of an exo-atmospheric interceptor concept, EXOGUARD, a project to measure the technological challenges involved and to ensure that the necessary skills and resources are available to provide the appropriate response to the ballistic threat.

This acknowledged expertise led to Airbus Defence and Space’s selection by NATO in 2004 as part of a transatlantic consortium to carry out feasibility studies for an anti-missile defence system; under this Missile Defence Feasibility Study Contract, Airbus Defence and Space had responsibility for identifying the precise technical nature of the threat, establishing the technical feasibility of the defence system architecture and its various components, sensor performance and detailed system specifications. This contract was extended to the end of 2010 and contributed to the preparation of the NATO heads of states summits in Bucharest, Strasbourg-Kehl and Lisbon.

At the end of 2006, Airbus Defence and Space and TeamSAIC won the first call for tenders of the NATO ALTBMD (Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence) which aims at bringing together the ballistic missile defence capabilities of member nations for operations in overseas theatres. The six-year €100 million System Engineering and Integration (SE&I) contract covers definition and construction of a simulation platform to validate interfaces between weapon systems, sensors and command systems, to test interoperability and to verify performance. Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for systems engineering and is making a major contribution to architecture studies through definition of the engagement chain. Airbus Defence and Space also supported Integration, Test and Validation activities and test bed development by delivering the threat module.