17 September 2021 – BAE Systems and MBDA have secured additional funding to complete the development and integration of next generation weapons capabilities on the UK and Italian F-35 fleets. This builds on the successful integration work that commenced in 2019 by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA to upgrade the UK F-35 weapon systems.
The award will see industry teams complete integration activities for the SPEAR precision surface attack weapon onto the UK F-35s, with the next-generation missile enhancing the UK’s future combat air capability through its network-enabled, high load-out, multi-effect capabilities with extended stand-off range. This will further enhance the UK Lightning Force’s capability to defeat challenging targets such as mobile long-range air defence systems at over-the-horizon ranges in all weathers and in highly contested environments.
The funding will also see the remainder of the integration of MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile completed on both the F-35A and F-35B jets for the UK and Italian armed forces. Meteor’s networking and range capability is ideally suited to the F-35’s sensor suite to provide unrivalled capabilities in the battlespace.
A team of engineers from BAE Systems, MBDA and Lockheed Martin will now commence the testing, simulation and integration activities in the UK and US, to achieve initial operating capability of both weapons.
Tom Fillingham, Senior Vice President, US Programmes, BAE Systems’ Air Sector, said: “Advanced weapons systems, such as Meteor and SPEAR, will provide the UK and Italian armed forces with an operational advantage. Our highly skilled engineers have a crucial role across the entire F-35 programme and as part of this integration activity, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside our partners as it progresses.”
Paul Mead, Group Business Development Director, MBDA said: “We are delighted that work continues at pace to deliver Meteor and SPEAR capability to the F-35; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for all international customers across multiple variants of the aircraft. MBDA’s integration team has worked well with our BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin colleagues to date and we plan to build on this excellent foundation into the future on this key follow-on modernisation work.”
More than 80 employees across the UK will deliver the weapons integration work for the UK and Italian F-35 fleets, with the F-35 programme sustaining more than 20,000 jobs in the UK overall across the development, production, integration and sustainment of the global programme.
Image courtesy MBDA