The SEPAR3 air-to-ground missile will soon commence demonstration flights on the UK’s Typhoon fighters for later integration on to the F-35 Jets.
MBDA has received a contract valued at £550 million for production of the SPEAR missile system from the UK Ministry of Defence. SPEAR (known in UK service as SPEAR3) is a first-of-class network enabled miniature cruise missile, MBDA announced today.
SPEAR will be the main medium-to-long-range strike weapon of the UK F-35 combat aircraft, enabling them to defeat challenging targets such as mobile long-range air defence systems at over-the-horizon ranges in contested environments.
Guided firings of SPEAR will start within 18 months from a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, with missile and launcher production beginning in 2023. The new contract follows the successful implementation of the weapon development phase contract for SPEAR placed in 2016 and the contracting of integration of SPEAR onto F-35 in 2019.
The SPEAR3 next-generation missile can travel long distances at high-subsonic speed and over the next decade will become the F-35’s primary air-to-ground weapon.
Colonel Martin French, the UK MoD’s Lightweight and Medium Attack Systems (LMAS) team leader, said: “The placement of this contract marks the next major stage of the SPEAR3 weapon system’s development and is a result of months of detailed negotiations between MBDA and the LMAS project team.
“Building on the successes and technology achievements of the previous four years’ work with MBDA, we now enter the challenging demonstration phase where we start to prove the system against the UK’s requirements to integrate this highly-capable weapon system onto the F-35B aircraft.”
Armed with SPEAR3, the F-35 will protect aircraft carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles.
At 1.8 metres long, the missile system has a range of more than 140-kilometres and, powered by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, to overpower enemy air defence systems, while the pilot and aircraft remains a safe distance away.
Its ability to attack moving targets will enhance the UK’s future combat air capability and provide immense lethal capability to the Queen Elizabeth class carrier strike group.
The UK currently has 21 fifth-generation F-35Bs, having received three new jets on 30 November. The platform’s Initial Operating Capability (Maritime) was recently declared and, later this year, F-35 jets will sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.
The initial demonstration phase will assess the weapon system against the UK military’s requirement through, testing, simulation and trials, which will include controlled firings from a Typhoon aircraft.