MBDA has conducted the first test of its new Brimstone 3 air-to-ground missile, the configuration that is expected to be adopted by its UK customer for its upcoming Protector and AH-64E Apache programs. Conducted at the Vidsel trials range in Sweden in February, the demonstration marks the start of a test campaign, and involved the missile being surface-launched and used for a guided firing with a seeker and a dummy warhead.
The form and fit of the new configuration is the same as the in-service Brimstone 2, so there is minimal difference in the integration work, the company said. While MBDA has not fully disclosed details about the new configuration, the company notes that obsolescence issues will be overcome, and that the new missile can be easily upgraded as required throughout its operational life, so there is more growth potential.
Brimstone 3 is being developed under the UK Ministry of Defence Capability Sustainment Programme, announced in March 2018 and expected to lead to integration on the new MQ-9B Protector unmanned aerial vehicle and AH-64E that UK forces are acquiring. For the former, a contract for integration of Brimstone onto the UAV was announced in January 2019 although, again, details of the ongoing work remain largely undisclosed.
Chris Allam, managing director of the UK arm of MBDA, told AIN that there is a set time in which the integration work has to be done, and testing is expected to take place over the coming year. Brimstone has been previously tested on both the Apache rotorcraft and the MQ-9 Reaper—the predecessor to the developmental MQ-9B—and data collected from these trials will be incorporated into integration work going forward, Allam added.
Furthermore, the company said it is eyeing opportunities for integration of Brimstone on the MQ-9B for other customers that are acquiring the platform. That includes Belgium, which has also selected an armed version of the UAV. “We think we will be in a good position…[and] it will be a good capability when we’re done,” Allam told media in London on March 20.
MBDA has also begun work with Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems on integration of its Meteor beyond-line-of-sight, air-to-air missile and Spear surface-attack missile onto the UK’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it announced in March, adding the weapons to the ASRAAM and Paveway IV munitions that have already been cleared the type. The company’s British customer is moving toward a policy under which it stockpiles common weapon types that can be easily topped up and supported by the manufacturers, and that are common across a number of platform types. Further integration of UK-made weapons from companies such as MBDA is part of this initiative.
MBDA also announced in March that it has achieved a so-called “key review” in the Anglo-French Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon concept phase development, two years into the effort. More studies will now follow as the nations assess their emerging requirements for replacing the in-service Storm Shadow/Scalp cruise missile, including their need for stealth and strike capabilities.
Further ahead, MBDA is a partner nation in the UK’s Tempest combat aircraft development, and Allam said that it is in the process of carrying out concept assessments on what the UK and its allies will require from a weapon in future conflicts, including possible new weapon designs and laser effectors.