The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has announced that the UK Ministry of Defence has contracted MBDA to supply the miniature, cruise missile system for F-35 fighter jets.
Missile specialist MBDA has received a contract valued at $746 million for the production of the SPEAR missile system from the Royal Air Force.
SPEAR (known in UK service as SPEAR3) is a 1.8 meters long, cruise missile system that has a range of more than 140-kilometres.
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 defense systems at over-the-horizon ranges in all weathers and in highly contested environments.
“The development of this next-generation missile will allow us to protect our personnel and assets on the ground, from thousands of meters in the sky above,” said Defense Minister Jeremy Quin. “Our commitment to this system will secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK and showcase British technology and weapon expertise on the world stage.”
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 UK currently has 21 fifth-generation Lightnings, having received three new jets on 30th November. The platform’s Initial Operating Capability (Maritime) was recently declared and, later this year, Lightning jets from 617 Squadron will sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.