Britain and France will develop new anti-ship missiles in a 500-million project that stems from a major defence cooperation agreement, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Thursday.
The multi-national group MBDA has been awarded the contract to produce the helicopter-mounted missiles, which use sophisticated homing technology to attack small and medium-sized targets.
The Royal Navy will use them on its new Wildcat helicopters.
The deal, worth 600 million euros or $830 million, is the first collaborative project announced since an Anglo-French summit held at RAF Brize Norton airbase in late January between Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.
Britain hailed the deal as “a significant step in joint working on complex weapons between the two nations”.
MBDA chief executive Antoine Bouvier said the deal “takes us into a new era of cooperation which will allow us to make significant savings in future programm”.
The group brings together British defence group BAE Systems, the European group Airbus and Finmeccanica of Italy.
Britain’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian signed an outline agreement for the project at the Brize Norton summit.
But the deal is part of a wider program of defence cooperation announced by Cameron and then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy at a summit in London in November 2010.
Under the Lancaster House agreement, Europe’s two biggest militaries agreed to cooperate on joint projects to increase efficiency and seek savings.
The British government has slashed its defence budget as part of its program of cuts in public spending.