MBDA has commenced deliveries of a quantity of Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) for the forthcoming integration of this infra-red air dominance missile onto the UK’s F-35B.
The first missile was delivered to the US during January in conjunction with BAE Systems (the UK’s F-35 weapon integration lead). ASRAAM will be the first UK missile to arm the F-35 and its integration within the F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the programme will give the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy’s F-35s a highly capable, passive, Within Visual Range air-to-air capability.
British Defence Minister Philip Dunne welcomed the news from MBDA saying: “The upcoming work to integrate the MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile onto the F-35 Lightning aircraft will provide a state of the art weapon for both our RAF and Royal Navy pilots. The integration of this missile also demonstrates the success of the UK Defence industry’s contribution to the wider F-35 programme. Around 15 per cent in value of every F-35 is being built here in the UK and the work is invaluable to British industry, supporting thousands of jobs across the UK.”
These test missiles will be used during 2016 for a series of flight trials and air-launched firings that are a key step towards the Initial Operating Capability of the aircraft by the UK. The trials will include environmental data gathering, safe separation from the aircraft, weapon integration with the F-35’s on-board systems, and lastly, weapon firing trials involving the engagement of targets. These integration activities will take place at both the Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force base in the USA.
ASRAAM is the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile in service with the RAF on the Tornado and Typhoon, the Royal Australian Air Force on the F/A-18 Hornet and on order for the Indian Air Force’s Jaguars.
The missile flies at over Mach 3 and its sleek, agile airframe, powerful motor, sophisticated seeker and software are designed to defeat current and future countermeasures.
MBDA is the only European group capable of designing and producing missiles and missile systems that correspond to the full range of current and future operational needs of the three armed forces (land, sea and air). With a significant presence in five European countries and the USA, in 2014 MBDA achieved a turnover of 2.4 billion Euros (US$2.6bn) with an order book of 12.6 billion Euros (US$14bn). MBDA is jointly held by Airbus Group (37.5%), BAE Systems (37.5%), and Finmeccanica (25%).