MBDA clears Spear 3 missile reviews

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MBDA has confirmed it has passed two significant milestones in a programme to develop a new precision-guided weapon for internal carriage by the UK's future fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft.

Dubbed Spear Capability 3, the product cleared both its critical design review and system design review with the UK Ministry of Defence in 2011, says MBDA UK managing director and executive group director technical Steve Wadey.

"We're now focused on the final two years to conclude the assessment phase, which, in 2013 and early 2014, will include subsystem and first flight trials of that weapon," he says. MBDA plans to disclose further details of its activities on the project at July's Farnborough air show.

The UK MoD earlier this month detailed its plans to field a Spear Capability 2 Block 1 weapon system from late 2013, with the enhanced Brimstone 2 air-to-surface missile to equip Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4s. The weapon is an evolution of the dual-mode seeker-equipped Brimstone used by the service in Afghanistan and in last year's Libya campaign. It has also attracted interest from the US Air Force and a number of other potential customers.

"The USAF wanted to know a lot more about the capability of the product and the programme, and where the forward-investment plans are for Brimstone as a family," Wadey says.

Separately, MBDA will also showcase the results of its latest "Concept Visions" campaign at the Farnborough show. The internal study activity is looking at possible air-launched weapons technologies to be used in arming unmanned air systems between now and 2030.