A revolutionary missile system which, it is claimed, will significantly reduce the danger of civilian casualties was unveiled on Tuesday at the Paris air show.
Details of the Perseus programme were announced on the day that Nato admitted responsibility for an airstrike which killed nine civilians. The alliance's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, expressed his "deep regrets" over the deaths which may have been caused by "weapons-system failure".
The manufacturers of the Perseus, MBDA, insists that the system's "smart technology" will safeguard against such mistakes. The guidance system will be programmed for the missile to divert and self-destruct if it "sees" that changes have taken place in the expected landscape. The Perseus, using "stealth" technology to avoid radar detection, will be supersonic with a top speed of 3,200kmph and a range of 300km. Travelling low enough to skim the waves at sea and 20ft above land, it could be used against both naval and land targets.
The production date for the missiles, which are expected to cost around £800,000 each, is yet to be decided. The manufacturer claims that, on completion, the system would be able to penetrate almost all existing defensive shields.
MBDA is involved in a number of Anglo-French projects in the pipeline following the agreement reached between Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron last year.