Saab announced the first flight of the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) on its Gripen E fighter on 12 November.
During the test, which took place in October, two missiles were carried on prototype aircraft 39-8 flying out of Saab's Linkoping production facility in southern Sweden, and marked a major milestone in the weapons integration phase of the ongoing flight trials programme.
Already operational on the MS20-standard of the Gripen C/D variant of the aircraft flown by the Swedish Air Force (SwAF), the 100 km+ Meteor has been integrated onto the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon; it will also be fitted to the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning for the UK.
The Meteor has been described by industry and military officials as providing a step-change in air-to-air combat capabilities. Whereas similar-type missiles have a relatively short boost-phase after launch, after which they glide to the target while bleeding energy, the Meteorʼs ramjet means it is propelled up to the point of impact. This reduces the adversary aircraft's chances of escaping the missile and gives the pilot more assurance of success when engaging enemy aircraft.
Europe is hoping and expecting that the missile will secure further export orders for the Gripen, Rafale, and Typhoon.
Although the US government has been developing its own BVRAAM capability in the form of the improved variants of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the Joint Dual-Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM), this headstart for the Europeans is critical at a time when many air forces are undergoing fighter recapitalisation programmes, and has arguably contributed to numerous export successes for both the Rafale and Typhoon over recent years.
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