London — The British Ministry of Defence has tapped MBDA to demonstrate an electronic warfare version of the company’s Spear missile.
The idea is to replace the warhead with a miniaturized payload, made by Italian Leonardo, that can jam enemy air defenses or beckon them away from strike missiles following in their wake, the company said at the DSEI defense trade show in London. The concept of the missile is similar to American MALD-J.
“These state-of-the-art electronic jammers will confuse our adversaries and keep our pilots safer than ever in the air,” Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan was quoted as saying in an MBDA statement. “Paired with the devastating power of precision Brimstone, Storm Shadow, Scalp and Meteor missiles, our world-class F-35 and Typhoon jets will continue to rule the skies in the years to come.”
MBDA plans to offer the new missile for swarm-attack scenarios like Raytheon’s MALD, meaning a number of them would be launched ahead of traditional strike weapons to confuse and overwhelm air defense radar or illumination radar of Russian S-400 or Chinese HQ-9 surface-to-air (SAM) system. The Scalp missile has proven the capability to penetrate enemy air defense Systems and destroyed Syrian chemical weapons factories despite the fact that those areas were protected by Russian-made Buk-M2E and Pantsir-S1.
SPEAR-EW is being developed by MBDA in partnership with Leonardo to complete a wide range of Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) missions, under a Technical Demonstration Programme (TDP) contract awarded by Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). SPEAR-EW will integrate a cutting-edge miniaturised EW payload from Leonardo, which will act as a stand-in jammer to greatly increase the survivability of RAF aircraft and suppress enemy air defences, acting as a significant force multiplier.
The core of SPEAR-EW’s payload is Leonardo’s advanced, miniaturised Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology, which offers the most advanced and future-proof electronic jamming and deception available on the market today.
The new SPEAR-EW will complement the SPEAR network enabled miniature cruise missile, which is designed to precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets in all weathers, day or night, in the presence of countermeasures, obscurants and camouflage, while ensuring a safe stand-off range between the aircraft and enemy air defences. Powered by a turbojet engine the SPEAR missile offers over double the range, and a far more flexible operating envelope, when compared to a conventional glide weapon. SPEAR-EW utilises this long endurance through its capacity to be launched at enhanced stand-off ranges and loiter while carrying out its jamming mission.
The compact size of the SPEAR family allows four weapons to be carried internally in each of the two internal weapons bay of the F-35, or three per station on the Eurofighter Typhoon. SPEAR-EW will keep the same form and fit as the baseline SPEAR to enable a single integration pathway and launcher solution.
The electronic warfare weapon is meant to “complement” the Spear miniature cruise missile variant, which is designed to “precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets,” the company said. Both variants share the same architecture and propulsion system, which provide enough juice for the jammer version to loiter above prospective targets.
Small, expendable drones — or missiles, in this case — are a prominent requirement for two next-generation combat aircraft programs taking shape in Europe: the Tempest and the Future Combat Air System. The miniaturized, networked platforms are envisioned to accompany larger strike aircraft and provide support capabilities, like jamming or reconnaissance, from a distance.
MBDA is the designated weapons maker for both the British-Swedish-Italian Tempest effort and the French-German-Spanish FCAS program.
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