US, French militaries interested in Brimstone missile, says RAF official

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The Royal Air Force's combat use of the MBDA dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missile in Libya has attracted interest from the UK's two main allies in the conflict, a senior military source has revealed.

Describing the lightweight Brimstone as "a unique munition capable of destroying manoeuvering targets", assistant chief of the air staff Air Vice Marshal Baz North says the system "is now being sought by both the United States of America and the French."

Fired from the RAF's Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft, the Brimstone has emerged as one of the UK's weapons of choice when engaging ground vehicles being used by forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi. "It is a highly accurate, lethal and very low collateral damage weapon," North says.

The roughly 50kg (110lb) Brimstone is an extensive redevelopment of the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire, optimised for release from fast jet platforms. Its dual-mode seeker was incorporated by MBDA under an urgent operational requirement deal that led to the weapon's first operational use in Afghanistan in late 2009.

 
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Tornado GR4s assigned to the UK's Operation Ellamy campaign typically fly with one three-missile launcher for the Brimstone (above right), as part of a mixed configuration also including Raytheon Systems Paveway IV 226kg precision-guided bombs and pod-housed targeting/reconnaissance sensors.

MBDA declines to comment on North's statement, which was made during a 19 April speech to the UK Air Power Association in London.