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In November last year, the Council of the European Union (EU) gave the green light for implementation of the Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based TheatER surveillance (TWISTER) project, which will be conducted within the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework.

This international missile defence project, which already includes five European countries, seeks to develop, with support from the European Defence Fund, a European multi-role interceptor to address emerging threats and be brought into service by 2030. In addressing the current capability gap, the interceptor component of the TWISTER project will ultimately become a key element in the contribution made by European countries to NATO's territorial, population and armed forces defence mission, while meeting the EU’s ambition in the field of missile defence. By rationalising and pooling capabilities, the PESCO member states will benefit from an operational capability in a class of its own, guaranteeing their strategic autonomy and freedom of action.

This new endo-atmospheric interceptor will address a wide range of threats, including manoeuvring intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM), hypersonic or high-supersonic cruise missiles, hypersonic gliders, anti-ship missiles and more conventional targets such as next-generation fighter aircraft. This interceptor will integrate existing and future land and naval systems.

MBDA is committed to meeting this need through next-generation technologies and architectures, building on nationally- and company-funded studies conducted over the past five years. MBDA will also draw on its experience of industrial cooperation at the European level, its long heritage of leading complex air defence programmes and its solid industrial relationships across the wider European landscape to establish a skills- and capability-led team.

MBDA enthusiastically welcomes the Council’s decision,” stated MBDA CEO Eric Béranger at the time. “[it] will commit all its energy and extensive missile defence experience in future collaborative and cross-border R&T and R&D activities. This next-generation interceptor project provides a unique opportunity for Europeans to converge their efforts in the field of missile defence and to secure sovereignty in an area vital to their strategic autonomy. These high-end interceptors are technologically demanding and their development will represent a qualitative leap forward for Europe’s entire missile sector. Our industrial model as a European champion gives us the critical mass necessary to deliver this challenging project through cooperation with our European industrial partners.”

The TWISTER project is the second missile systems project to be supported under the new European defence agenda, following the Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) capability programme which became part of PESCO in November 2018 and for which MBDA has put forward its fifth-generation ground combat system, the only solution under European design authority that gives front-line combat units the ability to fire beyond direct line of sight while maintaining man-in-the-loop decision-making.

The TWISTER project will see the development of a European-designed endo-atmospheric interceptor for national and continental missile defence. (Image via MBDA)

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