A UK Eurofighter TYPHOON aircraft has successfully fired a SPEAR air-to-surface precision strike weapon for the first time in a flight trial conducted from BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire.
The MBDA SPEAR networked precision strike weapon was launched from Eurofighter TYPHOON Production Aircraft BS116 earlier this year. The test flight was led by teams from MBDA and BAE Systems, with BAE Systems Chief Test Pilot Steve Formoso at the controls.
Following the launch, which took place at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Aberporth range, in Wales, the weapon transitioned to powered flight and completed a series of manoeuvres before reaching its pre-planned point of impact.
The aircraft, which is subject to a continual programme of capability upgrades, has been designated as the test aircraft for trials and development of the weapon.
“The success of this trial demonstrates the inherent flexibility of the Typhoon aircraft as a platform in supporting such a crucial phase of testing on this next generation missile - and further cements the strong relationship between BAE Systems, MBDA and the UK customer." Paul Stone, TYPHOON Product Development and Future Capability Manager for BAE Systems, said. "The weapon operated exactly as expected during the trial and we are delighted to have supported such important step in further development of SPEAR using Typhoon.”
The SPEAR missile is being developed to meet the UK’s Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3 (SPEAR Cap 3) requirement for the UK’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft, with the potential to equip Typhoon. SPEAR will precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weathers, day or night, in the presence of countermeasures, obscurants and camouflage, whilst ensuring a safe stand-off range between the aircrew and threat air defences.
Paul Wester, SPEAR Programme Director for MBDA, explained: “The first release and successful flight of SPEAR from Typhoon is a real demonstration of the close working relationship between the MoD, BAE Systems, Qinetiq and MBDA. We can anticipate that SPEAR will deliver significant operational advantage to users, and a real and tangible capability advantage to any platform deploying this new precision strike weapon.”
The test firing from the Typhoon was the culmination of trials work undertaken by MBDA to prove the weapon is ready to move to the next stage of development work, which will now continue through to 2020. SPEAR is one of a number of smart weapons which may be integrated on to the Typhoon aircraft to meet future operational requirements, including anti-ship missiles such as Marte-ER.
At FIA2016, MBDA showcases its next generation air-launched networked precision strike weapon, SPEAR, for which the company has recently been awarded a £411 million weapon development contract by the UK MoD. It is to be operated by the United Kingdom’s F-35 LIGHTNING II and will provide the aircraft with a unique strike capability, fully exploiting its advanced sensor and network capabilities. There is also an option to equip the Eurofighter TYPHOON for future phase enhancements.
SPEAR is being developed to precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weathers, day or night, in the presence of countermeasures, obscurants and camouflage, whilst ensuring a safe stand-off range between aircrew and threat.
Prior to being contracted for its development phase by the MoD, the SPEAR programme underwent an extensive set of test and trials activities, as part of an Assessment Phase contract.
Paul Wester, SPEAR Programme Director, explained the significance of the success: “This trial systematically demonstrated an advanced degree of maturity and technical progress that is unusual in an Assessment Phase. The trial had to achieve a variety of “firsts” for SPEAR including the safe separation from the jet, commencement of powered flight, the manoeuvre whereby it rolled and opened its wing in free flight, navigation and the final simulated precision attack. All those actions were a challenge with a new airframe that had never flown and we are building on this very successful foundation with the weapon development phase.”
Photos by BAE Systems/Jamie Hunter; Graphic by MBDA