A scale model on missile manufacturer MBDA’s stand at Asian Aerospace portrays a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has unwittingly revealed a potential fit problem for the fighter's weapons suite.
The model (pictuyred above) is in UK Royal Air Force markings, carrying a pair of Storm Shadow air-to-surface missiles, a pair of Meteor air-to-air missiles underwing and with an ASRAAM visible in the open weapons bay. But Sky Shadow and Enhanced Paveway, the UK’s “first day of the war” weapons are too large to fit the short take-off and vertical landing version’s smaller internal weapons bays, and are thereby limited to non-stealthy external carriage.
There was an ambition to integrate the Meteor, selected by Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK for the Eurofighter Typhoon, by France for the Dassault Rafale and by Sweden for the Gripen on UK JSFs, but this plan has remained unfunded, limiting the JSF to AMRAAM, and ensuring that the UK will have two different BVRAAMs in its inventory, and making it unlikely that other JSF export customers will select the weapon.
While ASRAAM can be carried internally (and is the only short range air-to-air missile that can achieve lock before launch from inside the bay), it is not cleared for external carriage, and therefore uses up a weapons station that might more usefully be devoted to a heavier air-to-ground weapon. This limitation may place the weapon at a competitive disadvantage to the US AIM-9X.
Finally, it has been reported that plans to integrate the Storm Shadow cruise missile, and the Selective Precision Effects At Range weapon on UK JSFs have been delayed, while integration of the Brimstone anti-armour weapon have been cancelled.