MBDA has received a contract, valued at £550 million, from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for production of the SPEAR missile system.
SPEAR, known in UK service as SPEAR3 (Select Precision Effects At Range missile No.3), is a first-of-class network enabled miniature cruise missile. It will become the principal medium-to-long-range strike weapon of the F-35 Lightning combat jets based at RAF Marham and operating from the decks of Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.
Weighing under 90kg and just 1.8 metres long, SPEAR3 is powered at high subsonic speeds by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, day or night, and strike at moving and stationary targets in highly contested environments.
The missile is designed to knock out warships, tanks and armoured vehicles, missile launchers, bunkers, radar posts and air defence batteries. It can defeat challenging targets at over-the-horizon ranges of more than 140 kilometres (nearly 90 miles) and this will keep the pilots out of harm’s way from enemy ground defences.
Éric Béranger, CEO of MBDA, said: “MBDA is delighted to receive this contract, it is the result of many years of hard work by our dedicated and highly skilled engineering team. Stand-off, network enabled and swarming weapons are a key part of MBDA’s vision – SPEAR is leading the way with these technologies and is the most technically advanced weapon of its type.”
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.
With its unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar, sensor technology, and armed with SPEAR3, the F-35 will protect UK aircraft carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles.
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.