MBDA has received a contract valued at £550 million for production of the SPEAR mini-cruise missile system from the UK Ministry of Defence.
SPEAR (known in the UK as SPEAR3) will be the main medium-to-long-range strike weapon of the UK F-35 combat aircraft, enabling it to defeat challenging targets on land and at sea such as mobile long-range air defence systems at over-the-horizon ranges in all weathers and in highly contested environments. It features a turbo-jet engine and is equipped with precision warheads for low collateral damage.
Guided firings of SPEAR will start within 18 months from a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, with missile and launcher production beginning in 2023. The new contract follows the successful implementation of the weapon development phase contract for SPEAR placed in 2016 and the contracting of integration of SPEAR onto the F-35 in 2019.
SPEAR is MBDA's response to the UK Ministry of Defence's Selective Precision Effects At Range air-launched requirement.
Éric Béranger, CEO of MBDA, said the contract is the result of many years of hard work by its highly skilled engineering team. “Stand-off, network enabled and swarming weapons are a key part of MBDA’s vision – SPEAR is leading the way with these technologies and is the most technically advanced weapon of its type.”
An Electronic Warfare version of SPEAR has also been developed by MBDA. SPEAR-EW features a miniaturised EW payload from Leonardo, which will act as a stand-in jammer to greatly increase the survivability of RAF aircraft and suppress enemy air defences,
The contract for SPEAR will employ a peak of 570 people at MBDA plus a further 200 in the Tier 1 supply chain. It forms part of the Portfolio Management Agreement (PMA), a partnership initiated in 2010 between the UK MoD and MBDA on sovereign complex weapons design and production. The PMA delivers military equipment for the UK Armed Forces.