UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Meteor - Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM)

Meteor is a new concept in air to air weapons, employing advanced air breathing motor technology and the latest electronics to deliver optimum combat performance. It will provide Eurofighter with the capability to deal with projected air to air threats throughout the life of the aircraft. Meteor will have the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously, at greater range than current medium range air to air missiles and in all weathers, day or night. It will complement Eurofighter's Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM) capability.

Subject to agreement of a multi-national Memorandum of Understanding Meteor will be developed under a collaborative programme involving UK, Germany, Italy and Spain (the Eurofighter nations), France and possibly Sweden. Discussions have been conducted on the basis of the UK acting as the lead nation. The UK's decision in favour of Meteor opens the way for other nations to undertake their national approval processes leading to signature of a Memorandum of Understanding around the end of this year.

The Prime Contractor for Meteor is Matra BAe Dynamics (UK) Ltd leading a European consortium consisting of MBD - France; LFK (the missile company of Daimler Chrysler Aerospace) - Germany; Alenia Marconi Systems - Italy; CASA - Spain, and Saab Dynamics - Sweden (should Sweden decide to re-join the programme). Boeing are also involved with the consortium to provide marketing support in the USA and expertise on programme management. The consortium is responsible for defining work share between national industries based on technical excellence and best value for money rather than to any predetermined or directed formula.

Meteor is being developed to operate from three platforms: Eurofighter, Rafale and (assuming Swedish participation) Gripen. The missile will significantly enhance the capabilities of these aircraft and their sales potential.

The BVRAAM project is being managed by an Integrated Project Team within the Defence Procurement Agency, at the agency's headquarters at Abbey Wood, Bristol. The project incorporates key elements of the Smart Procurement Initiative, including an incentivised contract with industry, industry involvement in the DPA project team and the management of the project in partnership with industry.

Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) is intended to be the principle air-to-air weapon system for Eurofighter. The combination of Eurofighter and a missile whose range and no escape zone exceeds any other current or projected system over the next decade will ensure the enhanced capability of the RAF in any future conflict. BVRAAM is designed to provide performance, particularly kinematic performance, several times that of existing Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (MRAAMs). The increased performance will enable pilots to fully exploit the capabilities of their new aircraft and dominate long range air defence engagements in a manner that no lesser a solution can achieve.

There is no active radar guided air -to-air missile in service with the Royal Air Force. Sky Flash is a semi-active missile and requires the launch aircraft to illuminate the target throughout the time of flight of the missile, which makes it vulnerable to counter attack. Although Eurofighter will enter service with an AMRAAM capability, BVRAAM will give Eurofighter the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously, independent of parent aircraft manoeuvre, at greater range than AMRAAM and in all weathers day or night. The UK's Eurofighter partners (Germany, Italy and Spain) and Sweden have an interest in procuring a missile meeting these requirements and have been fully involved in the tender assessment, with representatives collocated at Abbey Wood.

Experience has shown that air superiority is the key to success in military endeavours. BVRAAM will provide the assurance that enemy aircraft operations are neutralised, thus minimising the threat to allied forces on the ground and at sea. BVRAAM will also form a key component of the UK's defence against hostile attack. The advent of highly agile next generation fighters, such as Su27 and future derivatives equipped with modern Guided Weapons, demands a missile with sufficient range and "end game" energy to chase and destroy the enemy while ensuring the safety of air crews.

A single fighter, equipped with an operational load of BVRAAM missiles, has the potential to destroy even the most maneuvrable of fighters well before they reach combat range, and simultaneously engage bombers at long range. Targets are prioritised prior to launch, and the missiles are fired towards the predicted interception points. Meanwhile target information can be updated, via the data-link, throughout the initial flight - either from the launch aircraft or from a third party such as AWACs. Tactical information on the missile can also be received by the controlling aircraft. At the appropriate time, BVRAAM's active radar seeker autonomously searches for and locks onto the target. The missile is now fully autonomous, making its own decisions to home in on the target, despite any evasive manoeuvres, or decoys or sophisticated electronic countermeasures.

Meteor is a new concept in air to air weapons, employing advanced air breathing motor technology and state of the art electronics to provide optimum performance against increasingly complex threats.

Conventional rocket motor powered missiles rely upon an initial boost phase to achieve the high speed required followed by a 'coast' phase to intercept the target. Latest generation, highly manoeuvrable aircraft, are able to out run conventional missiles at the extremes of their range. The air breathing motor proposed for Meteor provides sustained power, following the initial boost, to chase and destroy the target. The missile's computer and the seeker, which provides the missile's ability to search, locate and lock on to a target, will build upon existing French technology, used in the Mica missile, to provide robust performance in the presence of electronic countermeasures.

Integration of this weapon with Eurofighter presents a significant management challenge in bringing together two major acquisition programme schedules. However, the common industrial partners of the Meteor and Eurofighter programmes should facilitate this and ensure that the optimum weapon system performance is achieved.

Meteor meets the essential requirements to counter the postulated future threats for the service life of the weapon. The design will provide growth potential to enable capability upgrade in the future.

The BVRAAM Invitation to Tender (ITT) was issued in 1995. Bids were received from two consortia: one led by BAe (now Matra BAe Dynamics Ltd (MBD)), offering a new system called Meteor and one led by Hughes UK Ltd (now Raytheon Systems Ltd (RSL)), offering a development of the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) called Future Medium Range Air to Air Missile (FMRAAM). The Meteor prime contractor is MBD with partners Alenia, CASA, DASA-LFK, GEC Marconi and SAAB. The FMRAAM prime contractor is RSL with Raytheon Missile Systems, Aerospatiale, RO, Fokker and Thomson Thorn.

Raytheon offered FMRAAM (Future Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) for the full BVRAAM requirement. Moreover, at the MoD's request for a lower cost and lower risk staged-approach to BVRAAM, Raytheon have offered ERAAM (Extended Range Air-to-Air Missile) which provides 80% of the performance of BVRAAM at 50% of the price. Raytheon has also offered an upgrade path for the AMRAAMs that the MoD will purchase to initially arm Eurofighter, called AMRAAM B+.

Meteor had been bid by Matra BAe Dynamics [MBD] to meet the UK MoD's Staff Requirement 1239, for a Beyond Visual Range Air-To-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system. Meteor is being offered as a pan-European solution for the EF-2000 and Gripen. The Meteor team comprises Matra BAe Dynamics as the Missile Prime Contractor, with Marconi Electronic Systems taking responsibility in the guidance systems as the Seeker Prime Contractor. The active radar seeker is the brains of the missile, and is the result of Dynamics Division's experience in high technology guidance systems. Other industrial partners are Alenia, Marconi's Italian joint-venture partner, DASA LFK of Germany, SAAB of Sweden and CASA from Spain, making it a truly European project. As such, by sharing development and aircraft integration costs Meteor provides a reliable and cost effective solution to Europe's requirements for BVRAAM and MRAAM (Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles). There have been a number of changes to the Meteor configuration, the most obvious being the addition of mid-mounted wings. Meteor will be fitted with a solid propellant variable flow ducted ramjet which the Meteor partners see as essential in delivering the performance characteristics necessary to meet the threat.

The initial tender assessment identified significant risks within both proposals that precluded down selection and award of a Development and Production Contract. A 12-month Project Definition and Risk Reduction phase was introduced with each bidder, at a total cost of 10 million, and contracts were placed in July 1997. Revised proposals were received in May 1998 and assessment was undertaken with contract award scheduled for late 1999.

In May 1998 Secretary of Defense, William Cohen gave assurances to British Defence Secretary, George Robertson that the US would ensure a fair international competitive environment for future fighter competitions and that the US would allow the marketing of AMRAAM-based BVRAAMs on Eurofighter to any nation approved for AMRAAM.

Revised bids were received from MBD and RSL in May 1998. During the assessment period RSL in conjunction with a collaborative offer from the US DoD submitted an alternative proposal known as ERAAM+. Best and Final Offers were received from both companies in September 1999.

On May 16, 2000, The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon) announced that the Meteor missile offered by Matra BAE Dynamics and its consortium is likely best to meet UK needs over the life of the Eurofighter aircraft.

Eurofighter will be delivered to the Royal Air Force equipped for, but not with, AMRAAM AIM120B. Owing to the fact that METEOR will enter service after Eurofighter, it will be necessary to purchase a quantity of AMRAAM missiles from the US to provide an interim capability. Delivery of the missiles would be scheduled to align with the aircraft's transition to operational readiness. The buy of interim AMRAAMs would have been necessary whichever solution was chosen to meet the BVRAAM requirement and the estimate of total costs includes this requirement.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:52:17 ZULU