MBDA is on target with its development of the Spear 3 missile for the UK, following the receipt of a £411 million ($540 million) contract on 1 April.
A precision-strike weapon using the dual-mode seeker from the Brimstone – the Royal Air Force's weapon of choice for engaging mobile targets during the conflict against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, Spear 3 is being developed primarily for use by the UK’s future Lockheed Martin F-35Bs, but also is being integrated with the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoons.
“The UK needs a weapon that can engage the full extent of the threat set, from the traditional heavy armoured tanks through to soft-skinned vehicles to air defence units today and in the future, as well as a range of maritime threats,” says Mark Slater, MBDA's future systems director. “Spear 3 will be able to engage the target in different scenarios in any condition, and with a turbojet fuel system it can engage longer-range targets,” he adds.
An F-35 launcher can house four Spear missiles within in its two internal weapons bays, and with two external hard points that load-out could rise to 16 weapons.
The Typhoon is the development platform for the Spear 3, and in March, a BAE Systems trials aircraft – ZK355 – test-fired a weapon over Qinetiq's Aberporth range in Wales. This demonstrated that the missile could transit from a stowed position through ejection to stable flight, including the deployment of its wings and control system, engine start and through navigation to a pre-determined target point.
“We are running flat out now in our four-year development programme that will allow it to be integrated on to the F-35 and other platforms in the future,” says Slater.