MBDA and Saab have conducted the first flight of Europe's Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile carrying a data-gathering seeker, with the milestone immediately following a successful second unguided test firing of the weapon in northern Sweden late last month, writes Craig Hoyle.

Conducted during a 1.5h test flight from Saab's Linköping site on 30 June, using a company-owned Gripen demonstrator, the test marked the start of a two-year seeker development programme, which will conclude before the weapon's first guided firing from the aircraft in 2008.

Meteor has so far undergone two unguided test firings in Sweden. During its first release on 9 May the weapon's Bayern-Chemie-supplied ramjet engine failed to ignite due to a software timing fault, but this was resolved before a "100% successful" release on 29 June, says MBDA Meteor business performance executive Richard Jones. Both tests were conducted using a rail launcher on the aircraft's port outboard weapon station from an altitude of 23,000ft (7,000m).

Saab has completed the majority of Meteor ground testing with the Gripen, and additional unguided firings and environmental data gathering flights are to start later this year, says Thomas Hellstrom, the company's project manager, Gripen Meteor integration. The Eurofighter Typhoon will also undergo its first environmental data gathering work later this year with the weapon, says MBDA, which has already completed similar work using Dassault's Rafale.

Led by the UK Defence Procurement Agency, the Meteor development programme is expected to lead to the delivery of production weapons to equip Gripen, Rafale and Typhoon fighters for partner nations France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Source: Flight International