BY:  Army Times Publishing Company

Pakistan will test-fire in July the Spada 2000 air defense system acquired from MBDA Italia, a source at the firm said April 7.
The Spada test-firing will follow the delivery of the first of ten Spada batteries ordered by Pakistan for 415 million euros in 2007. Antonio Perfetti, CEO of MBDA Italia, said that delivery of the battery was currently underway.
All 10 batteries are due for delivery by 2013, and further orders from Pakistan could follow, Perfetti said. MBDA Italia is the Finmeccanica-owned Italian operation within the European missile house MBDA.
“We have identified 95 percent of the offset arrangements on the Spada contract,” said Perfetti, who added that offset was less than the full value of the contract. “A facility has already been set aside for munition assembly and other firms have been given work commitments.”
MBDA is also pitching an extended range version of its Marte anti-ship missile to India, for likely use on Sea King helicopters. The normal range, Marte Mk2-S version has now been delivered to the Italian Navy.
“We started talking to the Indian Navy two years ago and we are obtaining an operational requirement for helicopters to serve as a base for future cooperation,” said MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier, who was holding a press conference in Rome alongside Perfetti.
“We are considering launching a demonstrator that could be ready in 18-24 months,” Perfetti said. “The model for this fast, low risk approach was the Complex Weapons program in the UK.”
“We are looking for export customers interested in upgrade versions of products,” Bouvier said. “We see it as a way of partly funding upgrades that our national customers could be interested in. The extended range Marte is an example.”
MBDA Italia is also working with Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi to mount the Marte missile on the light combat fighter version of the firm’s M-346 jet trainer, Perfetti said.
MBDA Italia saw revenue of 450 million euros in 2009, 17.3 percent of total group revenues of 2.6 billion euros. The Italian unit’s orders constituted 25 percent of the group order book, Perfetti said. Return on Sales in Italy was lower than the ten percent recorded at group level, he added, without giving the percentage. Spending on research and development at MBDA Italia rose by 60 percent last year.
MBDA’s Italian operation is also working on the MEADS missile defense system launched by the U.S., Germany and Italy. Bouvier said the Critical Design Review at system level should be completed by mid-year.
“We have a contract that runs up to the Review and we have now started discussions on a production contract,” he said.
Bouvier played down continuing doubts over the program in the U.S.
“We think this program will be strongly supported in the context of Transatlantic cooperation,” he said. “We expect all milestones to be met in 2010,” said Perfetti.