The Ministry of Defence has awarded a £411 million contract to develop a new missile for the UK’s future F-35B supersonic stealth aircraft.
The contract secures around 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, and will draw on engineering and manufacturing expertise from companies across the UK.
Spear 3 is from the same family of weapons as Brimstone, currently being used by the RAF to combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq, but it packs a bigger punch and has a significantly increased range.
The contract, with MBDA, will enable four years of critical design and development work which will tailor the weapon for use within the internal weapons bay of F-35B, the world’s most advanced combat aircraft.
It is being designed specifically for F-35B Lightning II operations launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s two £3 billion aircraft carriers.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne, said:
This contract will give UK pilots a state-of-the-art British designed weapon to be used on board our next-generation F-35B jets, with the precision and punch that we need to give decisive operational advantage over our adversaries and keep Britain safe.
This investment is good news not only for our pilots, but also for UK industry, safeguarding 350 highly skilled missile engineering jobs across MBDA’s sites in Stevenage, Bristol and Lostock, and an equivalent number of jobs in the wider supply chain. It has been made possible by this Government’s £178 billion commitment to the very best equipment for our Armed Forces and by our growing Defence budget.
Spear 3 uses an innovative turbojet engine rather than a tradition rocket motor, giving it a range of more than 60 miles. It was successfully test fired from an MOD Typhoon in March at a range in West Wales.
The £411 million contract award follows an initial £150 million assessment phase and, if successful, it is expected that Spear 3 will enter service in the mid-2020s.