The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has officially approved the integration of the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) on the UK F-35B Lightning II multirole stealth aircraft under one of a raft of separate missile-related contract awards to MBDA announced on 21 April.
A GBP41 million (USD52.5 million) contract provides for the development of an initial integration solution for Meteor on the F-35, a UK MoD Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) spokesperson told Jane's. "There will be a separate contract for full integration, the timeline of which will be guided by the US follow-on modernisation [FoM] programme. The UK is seeking to have the capability available on the F-35 from 2024," the spokesperson said. Meteor is a candidate for internal carriage on the UK's F-35B as part of the Block 4 capability upgrade cycle.
Dave Armstrong, managing director at MBDA UK, told Jane's that the contract essentially moves an earlier Meteor/F-35 integration study into the design phase. "We've already completed an initial study, and we understand precisely what we need to do. So this [contract] moves the study into the design phase, and we will end up with the right build of software and adaptation for Meteor on the F-35. We also have make sure that when the missile is in the internal weapons bay it is compatible with the aircraft and so our design work will also focus on safety parameters, release parameters, etc, to ensure that the missile works in the complete F-35 environment. So this contract will conclude with a finished product."
Armstrong confirmed that the design phase includes a minor hardware redesign to the missile tail fin. "As currently configured, the fins [on the Meteor] will not fit in the internal weapons bay of the F-35, and therefore they have to be redesigned. In simplistic terms we are cropping the top of the fin and are moving it elsewhere to retain the same surface area - and so the performance remains unchanged.
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