The UK is to introduce a further enhancement to its MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missile in late 2013, to build on the success of the design's use in Afghanistan and Libya.

First fielded in late 2008 under an urgent operational requirement (UOR) deal, the company's current dual mode seeker-equipped (DMS) Brimstone has accuracy and reliability rates both above 90%, "which makes it the most reliable weapon available to the Royal Air Force", the UK's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation says in its official magazine, Desider.

Previously integrated with the UK's now-retired BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9s, the 50kg (110lb) design is now used by the RAF's Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft in Afghanistan. The semi-active laser and millimetre-wave radar guided type was also used by Tornado crews during last year's NATO-led operation, Unified Protector, in Libya to conduct precision attacks with minimal risk of causing collateral damage.

 Tornado GR4 Brimstone - Crown Copyright

© Cpl Babbs Robinson/Crown Copyright

Work to develop the current missile from a UOR system into the RAF's core weapons inventory as the Brimstone 2 is being conducted under the Ministry of Defence's Spear Capability 2 Block 1 programme.

"Brimstone 2 delivers an improved version of the DMS Brimstone weapon, which incorporates an improved seeker, along with updated explosive components," DE&S says. According to MBDA, this work will "introduce an insensitive munition [IM] rocket motor and warhead, and other improvements to airframe and software".

Marketing material previously published by the company also claims that the Spear Capability 2 work will deliver "an overall increase in performance with improvements in range and engagement footprint".

Although the new missile will be all but identical externally to the current type, MBDA says its use of a more modular design allowing easier access to key components will also make any maintenance or repair activities more straightforward.

"Work continues with MBDA to confirm the size and value of the production order for Brimstone 2, which is currently scheduled to replace DMS Brimstone in 2013," DE&S says.

MBDA recently delivered its 500th DMS Brimstone to the RAF, with DE&S revealing that more than 200 of these have been fired to date. The service now has a "robust stockpile" of the weapon to support its operations in Afghanistan, the procurement body says.

RAF Tornado GR4s typically fly with a single pack of three rail-launched DMS Brimstones as part of a mixed payload also including two Raytheon Systems Paveway IV 226kg precision-guided bombs and a Rafael Litening III reconnaissance pod.

MBDA says potential export customers could buy either the DMS Brimstone or Brimstone 2 design, with both offered for integration with fast jet platforms, attack helicopters and unmanned air vehicles.

Source: Flight International