MBDA has confirmed that production rounds of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile are scheduled for delivery before year-end. However, MBDA managing director Steve Wadey would not disclose which air force will be the first to get the new missile, which MBDA UK claims represents a “step change in the air-to-air world.” AIN reported last year that French Rafale and Swedish Gripen fighters would be flying operational Meteors ahead of the four Eurofighter nations.
At the end of last year the Meteor program completed its initial development test and customer countermeasures campaigns, clearing the way for the transition to production status and final integration work. The lead customer for this work is the UK Ministry of Defence.
The Meteor is also slated for deployment aboard the F-35, but there is no clear integration path yet, Wadey said. “We see 2013 as a critical year in the F-35 program to give clarity on the route and timing [of Meteor integration],” he added.
Meanwhile, MBDA is awaiting a go-ahead from France for the joint Anglo-French FASGW-H/ANL program. British requirements for a future anti-surface guided weapon (heavy) were merged with the French Anti-Navire Légère (ANL) requirement for a 100-kilogram anti-ship missile. While the UK has signaled its commitment to continued development, Paris has yet to follow suit. ANL has fallen foul of an edict by incoming President Hollande’s government that all development programs should be placed on hold until the publication of a defense white paper. That document could be published in a matter of days or weeks, but could also be delayed beyond year-end. MBDA is hopeful that a positive outcome is achieved soon so that funded development work can proceed.
MBDA is well advanced in the assessment phase for the UK’s Spear (selective precision engagement at range) Capability 3 program. The company predicts that the weapon will begin air-launched flight-tests next year, following extensive lab- and ground-based trials. Spear 3 builds on the successes MBDA has enjoyed with the dual-mode Brimstone weapon and aims to deliver a 220-pound warhead over a range of approximately 75 miles. Intended to provide the kind of precision capability offered by Brimstone but at much greater ranges, Spear 3 is sized for the F-35 to carry internally. MBDA predicts that Spear 3 will provide a game-changing increase in air-to-ground capability. “What other system will give BVR [beyond visual range] capability against fast-moving, difficult targets with low collateral?” commented Wadey.