Missile manufacturer MBDA has started production of its Brimstone 2 air-to-ground missile and expects the type will enter service in 2015 on Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4s.
The company says the first production missile will be assembled this week at its sites in Lostock and Henlow in England.
Brimstone 2 has more range and accuracy, and a more-lethal warhead, than the original Brimstone, MBDA’s market development executive Cliff Kimpton says.
The weapons have semi-active laser guidance and millimeter wave radar, which allows them to strike moving targets.
The RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoons are also scheduled to receive the munition, but not until much later in the decade. This prompted the National Audit Office in February to issue a report warning that the UK will face a capability gap between 2019, when the Tornado is scheduled for retirement, and 2021, when Brimstone 2 is scheduled be integrated on Typhoon.
BAE Systems is studying the possibility of accelerating the integration work to 2018. However, MBDA has tested Brimstone 2 with the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Reaper unmanned air vehicle, a paring seen as an alternative way of addressing the capability gap.
MBDA officials decline to comment about those tests or say whether the RAF is still pursuing the Reaper option.