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What ωɛλρσɳs can British F-35 jets carry?

British F-35Bs are currently only certified to carry relatively few ωɛλρσɳ types, but that’s set to change with future upgrades.
According to Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, the following systems are currently operated and planned.

“Currently the UK F-35B Lightning is cleared to employ the Paveway IV Precision Guided Munition, the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM).

Future Capability uplifts will introduce the Spear Capability 3 Air to Surface ωɛλρσɳ and the Meteor Air to Air Missile.”

However, as I reported previously, British F-35B jets were to be equipped with Meteor missiles by the ‘middle of this decade’, but this has slipped to 2027. The Ministry of Defence previously published its tenth annual summary of the defence equipment plan. According to a statement:

“Building on the 2020 summary, it sets out our plans for the next 10 years to deliver and support the equipment our armed forces need to do the jobs we ask of them.”

The document contains a great deal of technical information about the projects and the management/funding side of them and you can read that for yourself here but below I’ll try and present the most pertinent information relating to the project in question.

Meteor on F-35B – Equipment Background

The project is described as follows:

“Meteor is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile featuring active radar guidance and exceptional longrange performance. Developed by a 6- nation partnership, it is currently in service on Typhoon and will undergo modification to allow internal carriage on Lightning II.”

In Year Progress Update

“Meteor was assigned a place in the Followon Development Programme by the F-35 Joint Programme Office and contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin in the early summer. However, entry into service is not anticipated to be until 2027 and there is a possibility that integration pressures in the programme may incur further delays because of challenges in the wider F-35 programme.”

What was the original plan?

British F-35B jets were to be equipped with Meteor missiles by the ‘middle of this decade’ originally. The information came to light in a response to a written question submitted in the House of Commons.

Mark Francois, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford, asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what his timetable is for the Meteor air-to-air missile to achieve initial operating capability on the F-35 aircraft.”

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, responded:

“Initial development work for Meteor integration has progressed well. The Lightning Delivery Team within Defence Equipment and Supply (DE&S), through F-35 Joint Program Office has signed a contract to integrate Meteor in the middle of the decade.”

Previously we reported that a team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA engineers are enhancing the capability of the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning aircraft by commencing work on the integration of next generation ωɛλρσɳs.

“BAE Systems has received an initial funding award from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, to start integration efforts for MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SPEAR precision surface attack missile. Under this initial package of work BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin will also complete further integration work with MBDA on ASRAAM and with Raytheon on Paveway IV, initially integrated in support of delivering Initial Operating Capability for the UK.”

Cliff Waldwyn, Head of Combat Air, Group Business Development of MBDA, said:

“This is a significant milestone for the UK Combat Air’s capability. This initial package of work officially commences the integration of Meteor and SPEAR and will enhance the operational capability of the UK’s Lightning Force in the future; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for international customers. MBDA’s integration team have worked well with our BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin colleagues and we plan to build on this excellent foundation into the future on this follow-on modernisation work.”

Meteor is a ‘Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile’ system developed by MBDA. The Meteor programme sees the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden working together to provide access to technology and expertise across those nations.


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