The European missile maker MBDA unveiled its Mutant concept, a loitering munition it will develop for the French military.
In May 2022, a request for solution called LARINAE was emitted by the Agence de l’Innovation de Défense (AID, the French defense innovation agency) and the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA, the French procurement and technology agency).
It asked for indigenous “medium-range remote-operated ammunition; ammunition capable of neutralizing armored targets within a radius of 50 km with a range of over 60 minutes.”
On June 22, 2023, the AID announced having selected an MBDA-led consortium and another project developed by Nexter Arrowtech, EOS Technologie, and TRAAK among 16 offers.
Nexter and MBDA offer two different solutions
Just before the selection was disclosed, Nexter had presented its bid, a surveillance drone weighing around 10 kilograms (22 pounds) with vertical take-off and landing, and which can evolve in a GPS-denied environment with an autonomy of three hours.
The solution integrates an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by EOS, an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) supplied by Nexter, and a navigation system capable of operating without GPS provided by TRAAK.
On June 30, 2023, MBDA presented its own offer based on a “Minimum Viable Product” approach.
Called Mutant, the remotely controlled ammunition, also weighing around 10 kilograms (22 pounds), features deployable wings for uses “requiring compactness and ease of transport and deployment.” Concept art shared with the statement shows six Mutant drones operating as a swarm.
MBDA highlighted its experience in developing anti-tank platforms and said the Mutant’s ability to strike beyond the line-of-sight would complement other weapons already in use with the French Army.
“This new propelled and guided munition benefits from technologies developed by MBDA over many years, in particular the AKERON family, to ensure very high levels of performance in neutralizing armored and mobile targets, while guaranteeing operational reliability and complete safety,” the manufacturer said.
The demonstrations for the LARINAE contract are scheduled to take place in 2024.
What is a loitering munition?
A loitering munition, colloquially known as a suicide drone or kamikaze drone, is a type of UAV designed to be directed toward an enemy target and crash into it, detonating in the process.
These munitions offer a safer and disposable alternative to regular man-portable anti-tank systems (MANPATS) due to their extended range. Additionally, their hovering capability and visual guidance enable greater precision in targeting.
These systems have gained widespread use in conflicts such as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and have subsequently garnered interest from several armed forces.