MBDA confirms Egypt has ordered VL MICA missiles for its corvettes


France’s MBDA has been awarded a contract from the Egyptian Navy for the VL MICA NG (New Generation) air defence system to equip the Egyptian Navy’s corvettes, after a deal for Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles with Denel fell through.

MBDA on 23 February said Egypt had become the first international customer for the VL MICA New Generation surface-to-air system.

Eric Béranger, MBDA CEO, said: “This agreement proves the confidence of our Egyptian customer in our VL MICA family, which 15 armed forces around the world already use for the protection of their naval and land forces.”

Officially launched in October 2020, the VL MICA NG system offers improved capabilities to handle atypical targets (UAVs, small aircraft), as well as future threats characterised by increasingly low observable infrared and radio frequency signatures, MBDA said. Additionally, VL MICA NG will be able to intercept ‘conventional’ targets (aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles) at longer distances.

It was first reported late last year that MBDA had been selected to supply the VL MICA for the Egyptian Navy’s four new Meko A200 frigates, after a deal with Denel Dynamics for its Umkhonto missile fell through due to Denel’s inability to provide financial guarantees.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI’s) arms transfers database, Egypt in 2019 ordered 96 radar-guided Umkhonto-R missiles and 32 infrared-guided Umkhontos for its Meko A200 frigates it is acquiring from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

The Umkhonto would have been a proven fit as the Meko A200 vessels in service with Algeria and South Africa are equipped with Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles. The Finnish Navy also uses the weapon on its Hamina fast attack craft and Hameenmaa class minelayers.

The deal was worth an initial R4.5 billion and Denel in 2019 had received an advance payment of R1.5 billion. However, in late 2019 Egypt cancelled the contract after Denel was unable to provide guarantees for the contract due to its financial problems.

As a result, Egypt replaced the Umkhonto with the VL MICA, which the Egyptian Navy already uses on its Gowind class frigates. According to SIPRI, Egypt ordered 100 VL MICA missiles in 2017 for the Gowind frigates.

The MICA fire-and-forget missile, capable of being fitted with either a heat-seeking homing head or with an active radar seeker head, has an interception range of up to 20 km.