Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR)
The next generation air launched surface attack weapon SPEAR is MBDA’s response to a component of the UK’s Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) air launched requirement. The Spear 3, a follow-on to Paveway IV and Brimstone missiles (Spear Cap 1 and 2 respectively).
The weapon will maximise the potential of the UK’s future combat air capability, matching the weapon to the aircraft. Recent conflicts have demonstrated the need for precision strike weapons that can operate night and day in all weather conditions against severe countermeasures and importantly attack moving and manoeuvring targets. Powered by a turbojet engine, SPEAR has the beyond horizon reach to ensure that the aircraft remains safely away from hostile air defence units.
SPEAR is equipped with the latest generation precision effects warhead, designed to meet the demands of the future combat mission. The weapon will allow the warfighter to reduce the numbers of different weapons within inventory while also extending the operator’s ability to engage mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets far beyond the horizon. SPEAR will provide high aircraft survivability with a low collateral damage solution. Fitted with the latest generation multi sensor seeker designed to operate in all combat conditions, SPEAR will be able to engage a wide range of target types both on land and at sea. Powered by a turbojet engine, SPEAR has significant reach to ensure that the launch aircraft remains safely away from hostile air defence units. SPEAR is equipped with the latest generation multi-effects warhead, designed to meet the demands of the future combat mission.
Fitted with the latest generation multi-sensor seeker designed to operate in all combat conditions, SPEAR will be able to engage a wide range of target types both on land and sea. The weapon is being designed for operation on the F-35, and the Eurofighter Typhoon is designated to act as a trials platform for missile development. The integration of SPEAR onto Typhoon for trials enables its potential as an additional future operational platform for the weapon. The F-35 with SPEAR will be flown by both the UK’s Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force.
In March 2010, the UK awarded MBDA a four year Assessment Phase contract worth £150 million ($200 million). While the missile’s design in 2011 featured a box-shaped airframe, by mid-2012, MBDA had substantially evolved the design. Prior to being contracted for its development phase by the MOD, the SPEAR program underwent an extensive set of test and trials activities, as part of an Assessment Phase contract. The results demonstrated that the missile’s subsystems and functional chains meet the key criteria of the UK’s SPEAR Capability 3 requirement. Successive tests focused on the guidance chain, including seeker and data link, lethal package, including warhead and fusing, culminating in the first air launch demonstration of controlled flight involving the missile’s airframe, navigation and propulsion systems.
This firing test took place during March 2016 when a SPEAR trials missile was launched from a Eurofighter Typhoon trials aircraft operated by BAE Systems at the QinetiQ Aberporth range in Wales. The missile transitioned through separation from the Typhoon aircraft to powered flight before completing a series of manoeuvres, ending in a terminal dive to the desired point of impact. The missile accurately followed the planned trajectory and was well within simulation predictions; all trial objectives were achieved.
Paul Wester, SPEAR Programme Director, explained the significance of the success saying, “This trial systematically demonstrated an advanced degree of maturity and technical progress that is unusual in an Assessment Phase. The trial had to achieve a variety of “firsts” for SPEAR including the safe separation from the jet, commencement of powered flight, the maneuver whereby it rolled and opened its wing in free flight, navigation and the final simulated precision attack. All those actions were a challenge with a new airframe that had never flown and we are building on this very successful foundation with the weapon development phase.”
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) signed a contract 18 May 2016 worth over £400M with MBDA for the Weapon Development Phase of the SPEAR air to surface, precision strike missile. This contract will further advance MBDA’s SPEAR weapon design and builds on a successful series of technical milestones during the preceding Assessment Phase. The contract will run through to completion during 2020 and will employ 350 highly skilled missile engineering jobs across MBDA’s sites in Stevenage, Bristol and Lostock, with an equivalent number of jobs in the wider supply chain.
The SPEAR missile is being developed to meet the UK’s Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3 (SPEAR 3) requirement for the UK’s F-35 aircraft, with the option to equip the Typhoon aircraft. SPEAR will precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weathers, day or night, in the presence of countermeasures, obscurants and camouflage, whilst ensuring a safe stand-off range between the aircrew and threat air defences.
Welcoming the contract, MBDA’s Executive Group Technical Director and UK Managing Director Dave Armstrong said, “Delivering the solution for the UK’s SPEAR 3 requirement is an important programme for MBDA, and for the future operators of the F-35 in both the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm. The contract confirms SPEAR as the only weapon to meet the UK’s operational requirements. It delivers a UK sovereign capability on the F-35 that will bring the kind of precision against moving targets previously seen with Brimstone, but at stand-off ranges that give the aircrew numerous advantages in terms of operational flexibility and survivability.” MBDA’s CEO Antoine Bouvier added “MBDA’s selection to provide SPEAR confirms the company’s position as the European leader in complex weapons and importantly positions MBDA in the international arena for the next decade with this unique precision strike capability.” A team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA engineers enhancing the capability of the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning aircraft by commencing work on the integration of next generation weapons. On 18 March 2019 BAE Systems received an initial funding award from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 program, to start integration efforts for MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SPEAR precision surface attack missile. Under this initial package of work BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin will also complete further integration work with MBDA on ASRAAM and with Raytheon on Paveway® IV, initially integrated in support of delivering Initial Operating Capability for the UK.
Tom Fillingham, Senior Vice-President – US Programmes of BAE Systems, said: “BAE Systems engineers played a crucial role in supporting the UK to achieve Initial Operating Capability for its F-35 fleet. Now, working alongside our partners including Lockheed Martin and MBDA, we are using our expertise to take that capability even further with advanced weapons systems such as Meteor and SPEAR. We are extremely proud of the critical contribution UK engineers are playing for both the UK and the global F-35 fleet through the development, production and sustainment of the aircraft.”
Cliff Waldwyn, Head of Combat Air, Group Business Development of MBDA, said: “This is a significant milestone for the UK Combat Air’s capability. This initial package of work officially commences the integration of Meteor and SPEAR and will enhance the operational capability of the UK’s Lightning Force in the future; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for international customers. MBDA’s integration team have worked well with our BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin colleagues and we plan to build on this excellent foundation into the future on this follow-on modernisation work.”
|Initial Operational Capability (IOC)||2025|
|Class||Air-to-Surface cruise missile (land-attack & antiship capable)|
|Weight||< 100 kg|
|Warhead||Multi-effect (Tandem-shaped penetrating charge, high explosive/fragmentary)|
|Guidance||Inertial, GPS, Millimetric Wave and Semi-Active Laser seekers|
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