Spear Tips Tony Osborne AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY/DECEMBER 16, 2013
"U.K. program is close to delivering a new generation of air-launched weapons for the Joint Strike Fighter...
...But Spear Capability 3 is perhaps the most challenging. The 80-kg (175-lb.) network-enabled weapon is being developed to strike mobile and static targets in a range of environments, from the open battlefield to urban areas, with low collateral damage. MBDA is proving the technologies for the weapon and will begin a series of trials next year that will lead to the first drops of a Spear 3 weapon from a Eurofighter Typhoon as early as 2015.
"The customer wanted the ability to strike static or moving targets in all weathers and achieve a range of military effects across a broad spectrum,” says Paul Wester, sector head of Spear Capability 3. The weapon is envisioned for use on the F-35: Four will be carried on a launcher in each of the JSF’s two weapon bays. Aircrews can plot the weapon’s intended flight path with mission- planning software before it is launched and update it using the weapon’s data link once it is in flight. Spear 3’s seeker builds on development of the DMB missile, which features an MBDA enhanced imaging seeker with millimeter-wave radar and a semi-active laser that can be used independently and collaboratively.
The weapon is stowed upside down in the launcher, and upon release, turns upright, deploys its wings and starts the Hamilton Sundstrand TJ-150 turbojet. Two small intakes on each side of the rear airframe provide airflow to the engine.
"Having an engine improves the chances of getting the weapon to the target,” says Wester. He cites other small weapons in Spear 3’s class that do not have engines and could potentially lose energy while turning, or lose range because of headwinds. While the Defense Ministry’s Spear 3 range requirement is classified, engineers are confident of a range of at least 100 km (62 mi.).
When development work began in 2010, the U.K. had settled on the F-35C conventional carrier-borne variant with a larger weapons bay. But the 2012 decision to revert back to the F-35B set the Spear 3 program back nine months. Engineers had to reduce the length of the weapon by 20 cm (8 in.) so it would fit the F-35B’s smaller bay. “Repackaging the weapon into a smaller airframe has been one of the most challenging aspects of the program,” Wester says.
The cost per weapon will be between those of the Brimstone and Storm Shadow but closer to that of Brimstone, MBDA officials say...."