At the 2016 Farnborough International Air Show, MBDA is showcasing the next generation air-launched networked precision strike weapon, SPEAR, for which MBDA Systems was awarded a £411M development contract by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense. SPEAR will provide the United Kingdom’s F-35 Lightning with a unique strike capability, fully utilizing the F-35’s advanced sensor and network capabilities. This agreement also includes an option to equip the Eurofighter Typhoon for future phased enhancements.
SPEAR was developed to engage long-range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weather conditions, day or night. SPEAR’s precision allows for a safe stand-off range that compensates for countermeasures, camouflage and other obscurants deployed by targets.
Before this most recent contract for continued development by the UK MOD, the SPEAR program completed 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 trial firing test took place during March 2016 when a SPEAR missile launched from a Eurofighter Typhoon successfully separated from the aircraft and transitioned to powered flight before undertaking a series of complicated maneuvers that ended in a terminal dive at the desired point of impact. SPEAR accurately followed the planned trajectory within simulation predictions to achieve all trial objectives.
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 trial aircraft were operated by BAE Systems at the QinetiQ Aberporth range in Wales.