UK ASRAM contract for F35
The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a £184-million contract for ASRAAM air-to-air missiles (AAMs) to arm the F-35B Lightning II.
Under the latest contract, MBDA will manufacture an additional stockpile of an advanced version of the infra-red-guided ASRAAM, allowing F-35s to use the missile beyond 2022. Work to integrate the new missile on to the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract.
The updated missile is expected to enter service on RAF Typhoon aircraft from 2018 and on RAF and Royal Navy F-35s from 2022, at which point the current variant will be withdrawn from service. The ASRAAM will be the first British-designed missile to enter service on the F-35.
Although the weapon will initially be carried externally on the F-35’s underwing hardpoints, MBDA says that ‘design and space provision is preserved for internal integration fit within the internal weapons bay and thus remains an option for the future’. The ASRAAM includes both lock-on-before-launch and a lock-on-after-launch modes.
UK Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said: ‘Wholly designed and built in the UK, this air-to-air missile on our F-35 aircraft will secure cutting-edge air power for the UK for years to come.’
According to Harriett Baldwin, the latest contract, which is part of the MoD’s £178-billion Equipment Plan, will sustain around 400 jobs across the UK. This includes 200 jobs at the company’s UK sites, plus a further 200 jobs across the supply chain.
The Mach-3-capable ASRAAM will be manufactured and assembled at MBDA’s new, £40-million manufacturing facility that is nearing completion in Bolton. Engineering activities will be carried out by MBDA in Stevenage and Bristol.
Chief Executive Officer at the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organization, Tony Douglas said: ‘ASRAAM will provide vital offensive and defensive options for UK F-35 pilots against a wide range of air-to-air threats.
‘The project to update the weapon and integrate it with the F-35, the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, provides a clear example of the MoD and UK industry working effectively together to provide our UK armed forces with the best equipment possible.’
Manufacturer MBDA said: ‘ASRAAM’s large rocket motor and clean aerodynamic design gives it high kinematic capability to deliver superior end-game performance compared with other countries’ in-service IR missiles.’
The ASRAAM is currently in service with Royal Air Force Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and is being carried daily on missions over Iraq and Syria as part of the coalition fight against the so-called Islamic State.
Under a separate contract, MBDA is currently working on an ASRAAM capability sustainment program for the Typhoon.
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