Meteor, European multi-nation conglomerate MBDA’s Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), is still “on the path” to being part of the United Kingdom’s Block 4 version of the F-35, according to an industry source.
The U.K. government continues to emphasize the importance of getting Meteor on its F-35s, according to the source, who added the U.K. government’s “strong push” makes him feel it will eventually happen, although nothing is confirmed yet.
Though the U.K.’s Block 4 version of the F-35 will likely not arrive until 2020, the news is good for MBDA, who believes Meteor has a solid chance of landing a coveted spot on the F-35 due to its unique, dual-rocket “Ramjet” motor. MBDA said Ramjet has an advantage over competing single rocket air-to-air missiles like Raytheon’s [RTN] Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) because its dual-rocket motor allows it to accelerate to boost, while the second jet maintains that speed all the way to the target.
The source did not know when Meteor would officially be named part of the U.K.’s Block 4 F-35s, which will be developed by Lockheed Martin [LMT]. The United Kingdom is buying the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant.
Germany also recently became the sixth and final partner nation to enter into a production contract for Meteor. Germany’s contract means that all six nations, including the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden, have entered production contracts for Meteor. Sweden is not part of MBDA, but is a partner on Meteor. MBDA, which consists of the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, originally expected Germany to sign its contract by the end of 2012.
Germany will deploy Meteor on its Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft. Meteor is currently in full-rate production (FRP) and fully functioning Meteors could start being delivered between 2014 and 2016. Meteor is expected to deploy on the Typhoon, the Swedish aircraft Gripen and the French aircraft Rafale, which is manufactured by Dassault. The Typhoon is developed by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., BAE Systems and Alenia Aermacchi, a division of Finmeccanica.
Saab said it successfully conducted the first test firing of the Meteor version developed for mass production from a Gripen, making Gripen the first combat fighter system with the capability to fire this version of Meteor. Saab said the tests, which took place in late June, fired, for the first time, the first two Meteor missiles in mass production configuration from Gripen at a remote-controlled target. The test firing demonstrated separation from the aircraft, the link function between the aircraft and missile and the missile’s ability to lock in on the target.
The test firing was also used to verify the command support that has been developed for the pilot. Saab said additional tests will be conducted this fall so the delivery of new capabilities can be made during 2014.
In addition to the United States and United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Israel are purchasing the F-35. Meteor is an effort to provide a missile “technology jump” to western European militaries and to provide something different from competing missile technologies.