Testers Prove Integration of Brimstone, Unmanned Reaper

 - March 25, 2014, 4:19 PM
The UK and U.S. militaries sponsored test firings of the dual-mode Brimstone missile from the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper. (Photo: MBDA)

European defense group MBDA said its dual-mode Brimstone missile fired from an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft scored direct hits against a range of targets during recent trials at U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. The U.S. and UK militaries sponsored the trials, which were held in December and January.

The trials started with captive-carry tests of avionics and environmental data-gathering missiles to prove the integration of the Brimstone with the Reaper, MBDA said. Testers followed these with a series of live operational missile and inert telemetry missile firings. “The firings were taken from realistic ‘middle of the envelope’ profiles - typically 20,000-foot release altitude and 7 km to 12 km plan range, with the platform being remotely piloted in operationally representative beyond line-of-sight conditions,” the company said. The missile scored nine direct hits over a range of scenarios involving “static, accelerating, weaving, fast and very fast remotely controlled targets.”

The demonstration was supported by the British Royal Air Force Unmanned Aerial Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron, the UK Ministry of Defense Equipment and Support Weapons Operating Center, the U.S. Air Force Big Safari special-purpose weapons organization, Reaper manufacturer General Atomics and MBDA.

The dual-mode Brimstone features millimeter wave radar and semi-active laser seekers. It is manufactured and assembled at MBDA facilities in Henlow and Bolton in the UK. The RAF used the missile on Panavia Tornado GR4 strike fighters during the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya campaigns.

In a column published in February by Defense One, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S., Peter Westmacott, said the U.S. Air Force should consider buying the British-made Brimstone for its Reapers. The Reaper carries a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

“It makes sense to buy equipment that your allies have already developed, rather than invest millions or billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to duplicate what’s already available,” Westmacott wrote. “…It’s an approach that has worked well for the United Kingdom. For example, we have invested in C-17 transport aircraft, made in the U.S. by Boeing, in Boeing’s Chinook and Apache helicopters, and of course in Lockheed Martin’s F-35. I hope the U.S. will consider doing likewise with the Brimstone, and with other world-class products like BAE’s Hawk trainer jet.”