MBDA has unveiled a mockup and video depiction of SPEAR, a turbojet-powered air-surface missile for the UK Royal Air Force. SPEAR stands for selective precision effects at range and the missile is intended for launch from the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) at ranges in excess of 100 km.
MBDA describes SPEAR an all-weather, day/night, network-centric, low collateral-damage weapon that flies at high subsonic speeds. It is capable of dealing with an extremely large target set ranging from fast-moving maneuvering vehicles (including main battle tanks), hardened structures, air defense units and missile launchers, to naval vessels. It will have a multimode seeker, a multi-effects warhead and GPS/INS guidance with a data link for mid-course target updates.
SPEAR is being designed so that four can fit into each of the F-35’s two internal weapons bays. However, the length of the missiles may have to be reduced from that seen in the image below now that the UK has reverted to the F-35B, which has a shorter weapons bay than the F-35C. The missile is carried upside down in the F-35 and has pop-out wings. A new launcher will be designed. The concept of operations includes launching multiple missiles against difficult targets, such as an air defense system, with the weapons approaching from different angles.
MBDA UK managing director Steve Wadey said the new missile would be “vital for future multi-role missions of the F-35.” He expressed confidence that SPEAR would attract other customers and would be carried by other platforms.
The missile is already in the assessment phase, which will include an air launch and ignition of the turbojet. The UK Ministry of Defence will decide in 2014 whether to proceed to a demonstration phase and eventual manufacture.