The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a £184 million contract to ensure the UK’s new supersonic stealth combat aircraft will continue to be equipped with air-to-air missile.
Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) is a heat-seeking weapon which will give Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy F-35B Lightning II pilots, operating from land and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, the ability to defeat current and future air adversaries, the MoD said in a statement Tuesday.
The new contract will see MBDA manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the weapon, allowing F-35 combat jets to use the missile beyond 2022. Work to integrate the new missile onto the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said, “Wholly designed and built in the UK, this air-to-air missile on our F-35 aircraft will secure cutting-edge air power for the UK for years to come.”
This contract is part of the MOD’s £178 billion Equipment Plan which is backed by a defence budget that will increase every year from now until the end of the decade.
Work on ASRAAM will be carried out at MBDA’s new, £40 million manufacturing facility that is nearing completion in the Logistic North commercial development in Bolton.
ASRAAM, which uses a infra-red seeker, is capable of engaging hostile air targets ranging in size from large multi-engined aircraft to small drones.
Chief Executive Officer at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, Tony Douglas said, “ASRAAM will provide vital offensive and defensive options for UK F-35 pilots against a wide range of air-to-air threats.”
The updated missile variant being secured under this new contract is expected to enter service on RAF Typhoon aircraft from 2018 and on RAF and Royal Navy F-35 aircraft from 2022, when the current variant will be taken out of service.