The French General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) has acquired 367 MICA NG missiles from MBDA to arm its Rafale fighter jets under ~€1.8 billion MICA NG program.
The contract was signed on March 5, 2021. These missiles will be delivered from 2028 to 2031.
In addition to the 367 operational Mica NG missiles, this new order includes the supply of 150 Mica NG force training vehicles. It also covers pyrotechnic renovation of part of the fleet of current Mica missiles in order to allow their use until 2030 by all aircraft which already carry or will carry the Mica (Rafale all standards, Mirage 2000-5, Mirage 2000D refurbished).
Launched under the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law (LPM), the Mica NG program provides for a total of 567 missiles, including 200 already ordered by the DGA from MBDA at the end of 2018, for deliveries from 2026. In total, the Mica NG program represents an investment of around €1.8 billion at 2018 economic conditions, the French Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
MICA NG missiles will replace MICA air-to-air missiles scheduled to be phased out of service by 2030.
The MBDA MICA (Missile d’interception, de combat et d’autodéfense, “interception, combat and self-defence missile”) is an anti-air multi-target, all weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system. It is intended for use both by air platforms as individual missiles as well as ground units and ships, which can be equipped with the rapid fire MICA Vertical Launch System. In 2007, a MICA launched from a Rafale successfully demonstrated its over-the-shoulder capability by destroying a target behind the launch aircraft. The target was designated by another aircraft and coordinates were transmitted by Link 16.
There are two MICA variants; MICA RF has an active radar homing seeker and MICA IR has an imaging infra-red homing seeker. Both seekers are designed to filter out counter-measures such as chaff and decoy flares. A thrust vector control unit fitted to the rocket motor increases the missile’s agility.
“Like the current Mica missile, the Mica NG will be developed in two versions: infrared and electromagnetic seeker. It will use the interface and mechanical characteristics of the current Mica in order to facilitate its integration into the Rafale… Its range is extended thanks to the use of “bi-pulse” thruster which also gives it better maneuverability in the terminal phase. It also makes it possible to promote and develop Thales’ know-how in active detection sensors. Its support will be facilitated with minimal maintenance and the integration of HUMS sensors (Health Usage and Monitoring System) which will allow better control of aging, in particular for pyrotechnic elements,” the ministry said.
The MICA missile is capable of lock-on after launch (LOAL) which means it is capable of engaging targets outside its seeker’s at-launch acquisition range. Mounted on the Rafale, the MICA IR can provide IR imagery to the central data processing system, thus acting as an extra sensor.
MICA can also be employed as a short-range surface-to-air missile. It is available in a ground-based version, VL MICA, fired from a truck-mounted box launcher, and a naval version, VL MICA-M, fired from a ship-fitted vertical launch system.