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The Matra BAe Dynamics Mica is an innovative lightweight missile that can both intercept incoming missiles and fire at multiple targets. MICA stands for “Missile d’Interception, de Combat et d’Autodéfense”. A clear statement that this single missile system had to cover all facets of the air-to-air battle - BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception, dogfight and self-defence. The Mica is an advanced medium-range missile that is the French counterpart to the more capable American AMRAAM missile. Variants include active radar and infra-red homing, providing a unique ability to select target-engagement options for both short and medium-range intercepts. The 4A active anti-air seeker was developed by Dassault Electronique within the framework of a European cooperation, both for the Mica air-to-air missile and, in a slightly different version, for Eurosam's Aster surface-to-air missile.

MICA is the reference multi-mission air-to-air missile system for the Rafale and the latest versions of the Mirage 2000 combat aircraft. Developed by MBDA, MICA provides a high level of tactical flexibility. Breaking away from established doctrines, the very high technical standards set by MICA are the result of an innovative operational concept. These evolved from the global understanding of the air-to-air battlespace and the appreciation of the need for a weapon system that would ensure asymmetry to win in aerial combat.

The MICA system comprises 2 versions: MICA (EM) RF with an active radio frequency seeker and MICA IR with a passive dual waveband imaging infrared seeker. Both missiles are fully qualified and in mass production, being currently flown by numerous air forces worldwide.

A “full MICA” configuration on an aircraft such as Rafale gives a very flexible and high BVR fire power for Air Superiority during all kind of missions: combat air patrol, sweep, deep strike, recce, maritime operations. MICA missile in BVR mode introduces a new way of waging air combat by offering multi-target capability at extended ranges with the two interoperable guidance systems to hamper enemy counter measures. All carried (EM) RF or IR MICA missiles are fully BVR, being operable with or without data link target designation updating.

In short range (SR) combat, a MICA configuration on an aircraft offers a full "new generation" capability thanks to the outstanding performance of the missile (extreme agility and manoeuvrability). An additional advantage lies in the possibility of launching MICA with its seeker (namely IR) either locked-on to the target or not, while still featuring all BVR qualities.

The same MICA missile provides a dual use (air-launched or surface-launched). The surface-launched variant, named “VL MICA”, is launched vertically either from naval- or ground-based air defence systems. Lightweight and compact, MICA was designed as a "multi-aircraft" missile that could easily be integrated onto any modern fighter aircraft on a maximum of available store stations according to its eject or rail launch capabilities without significantly reducing aircraft performances.

On 11 June 2007, MBDA’s MICA multi-mission air-to-air missile successfully destroyed its intended target following launch from an operational French Air Force Rafale F2 aircraft. The firing, part of an ongoing training programme being carried out by French Air Force pilots with MICA, took place at the DGA’s CELM missile launch test facility at Biscarrosse off the south west Atlantic coast of France.

For this latest firing, a complex combat scenario was created with a Rafale pilot being chased and threatened by an “enemy aircraft” (actually a C22 drone) approaching at a distance of several nautical miles from its rear sector. A second Rafale, acting as wingman, acquired the target and provided target designation information to the first aircraft via the Link 16 data link.

On being launched, MICA carried out an extremely sharp 180° manoeuvre in its inertial guidance phase, a manoeuvre made possible by the missile’s exceptional agility provided by its thrust vector control feature. MICA then advanced towards the designated target which it destroyed. The MICA missile used during this training session was the RF variant, featuring an electromagnetic active seeker.

Patrick Tramier, MBDA’s Director of Programmes, said: “This latest success proves MICA’s extreme efficiency in carrying out an out of sector self defence role with target data provided by a support aircraft. It is just one of a series of successful tests within the current training campaign which has shown MICA’s exceptional performance against targets flying at different altitudes and speeds as well as targets carrying out evasive manoeuvres and within a countermeasures environment”.

By 2011 MICA wasy in operation around the world, integrated, in the air-launched variant, on Rafale, on the latest versions of the Mirage 2000 and, in the near future, on Mirage F1, and, in the vertical-launched (VL) variant, on various naval platforms or groundbased air defence systems. Besides the French Air Force and Navy, MICA already counts six export countries as reference customers. The recent integration of MICA missile on Mirage F1 featured the unique BVR capability with double IR or RF weapon terminal guidance. Such a modernization program provides this type of aircraft with a modern air-to-air BVR capability and thereby a significant new lease of life.

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Page last modified: 29-12-2012 19:34:19 ZULU