The Future: SPEAR with the Gripen E
MBDA’s SPEAR is an extended range derivative of the DMB under contract for development. It is the only missile that meets UK MoD’s Selective Precision Effects At Range ( SPEAR) Capability 3 requirements, and because it is developed and made exclusively in the UK, is a product that will have “complete freedom of action and delivery” in terms of employment and exports.
SPEAR is designed from the outset for the UK’s F-35, which means it is optimised for internal carriage. Each missile weighs 100kg and boasts an incredible range of over 100km. A triple rack with three missiles would weigh just under 400 kg, and would enable precision strike on multiple fixed, mobile, and re-locatable targets, with low collateral damage, at very long ranges. The missile is network enabled, but MBDA notes it is “not net dependent,” featuring a number of additions to the base Dual Mode Brimstone, including a new multimode seeker that incorporates radar imaging, GPS, a multi-effect warhead, Link-16-based datalink, a wing kit and a Pratt& Whitney TJ- 150- 3 turbojet engine. The missile’s relatively small size results in greater “magazine capacity” for the carrying aircraft, with the F-35 able to carry eight internally, while the Typhoon (the primary 4th-generation platform for the missile) will receive the same triplerack as the Brimstone currently integrate under the type’s Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E). SPEAR will be programmable in- flight, allowing for exceptional flexibility regarding fuzing options for a wide variety of targets.
SPEAR’s UK assessment phase is complete with the Eurofighter Typhoon platform, and industrial development of the weapon system is planned to be complete by 2020, with service entry in the following years, after user testing.
Since the Brimstone and SPEAR can be integrated with nearly any combat platform with the 1553B or 1760 data bus, MBDA had an interesting proposal ready regarding the IAF’s future fighter plans, should the Saab Gripen E be selected as the new ‘single engine fighter.’ Company officials showed off an ‘ all- MBDA’ multirole loadout for the Gripen E, with two ASRAAMs on the wingtips, three Meteor BVRAAMs underbelly, and twelve SPEAR missiles (four racks of three). The air-to-surface weapons could also include a mix of six Brimstone and six SPEAR, or a maximum of six DMB, carried on the outer wing stations. The latter configuration is a limitation owing to the fact that Brimstone has a rocket motor that ignites ‘on the rail,’ which could lead to the missile’s exhaust gases being ingested by the fighter’s engine. Since SPEAR is jettisoned, not fired off the pylon, there are no such issues with a 12-missile SPEAR load. MBDA also noted the Taurus long-range cruise missile, which is a Saab-MBDA product, is integrated with the Gripen, with the Gripen E able to carry two.