PICTURE: MBDA reveals clipped-fin Meteor for F-35

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MBDA has revealed a slightly modified Meteor that would allow four of the beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles to be stored inside the Lockheed Martin F-35.

A miniature Meteor mock-up featuring four clipped fins appeared for the first time in the company's display at the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington DC.

The missile's total fin area is reduced by roughly 20% compared with the original design, says Rob Thornley, MBDA sales and business development executive. The new shape allows the Meteors to squeeze into the space designed to house four Raytheon AIM-120C7 AMRAAMs.

f-35 jsf mdba meteor, stephen trimble/tim bicheno-brown/flightglobal
 © Stephen Trimble/Tim Bicheno-Brown/Flightglobal

The new fin design is the product of a Lockheed study made nearly three years ago and funded by the UK Ministry of Defence to investigate the feasibility of carrying four Meteors within the F-35's internal weapons bay.

Unlike its short-range ASRAAM, MBDA has not yet found a customer willing to integrate the Meteor on the F-35. However, the company is preparing the missile to be included as part of the fighter's Block 5 upgrade package.

Meteor is scheduled for integration on Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen (pictured below carrying standard Meteor) fighters under a six-nation programme involving France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

 
© MBDA

Lockheed has previously shown off a modified weapons bay door that creates enough room to store as many as six AMRAAMs.

US Air Force officials, meanwhile, are seeking approval in the next budget cycle to develop a new, long-range missile to replace both the AMRAAM and Raytheon's AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile. The dual-role air dominance missile remains in early technology development.

"We need to move forward with fifth-generation weapons for a fifth-generation platform," Air Combat Command chief Gen William Fraser said during the AFA conference.