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No 'Idle Spear': MBDA details air-to-surface


capability
Date Posted: 06-Sep-2016
Publication: Jane's International Defence Review
The UK's new F-35B Lightning II multirole fighter is set to enter service with the Royal Air
Force and Fleet Air Arm from 2018. To meet the specific operational requirements of that
aircraft, MBDA is now under contract to develop a new precision strike weapon that
promises unrivalled capability in its class. Robin Hughes reports
The award to MBDA in March 2016 of a GBP411 million (USD548 million) contract to develop its
Spear solution for the UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) Selective Precision Effects At Range
Capability 3 (SPEAR Cap 3) requirement realistically heralds the development of a new bespoke,
high-precision, network-enabled, stand-off sovereign air-to-surface capability for the UK's future F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fleet.
It also effectively signals the death knell for Raytheon's ambitions to equip the UK's F-35B with its
Small Diameter Bomb II.

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The Spear missile in terminal phase. (MBDA)


1635792
In UK service, Spear will be a 'clean-sheet' capability that complements two other MBDA weapons
lined up for internal carriage on the UK F-35B: the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile
(ASRAAM) and the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). Mark Slater,
MBDA's Director of Future Systems said the award of the development contract for Spear offers
"the UK operational sovereignty and real freedom of action in terms of the use of the weapon. It
allows the UK to have precisely what it requires, and will allow it to effectively marry SPEAR Cap 3
with its fast-jet platforms to ensure it meets the full capability requirements of the Royal Air Force
and Fleet Air Arm."
The four-year SPEAR Cap 3 weapons development phase contract - which builds on an initial
GBP150 million Assessment Phase - will, according to the MoD, "enable critical design and
development work which will tailor the [Spear] weapon for use within the internal weapons bay of
F-35B".

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Beginning 1 April 2016, this phase is scheduled for completion in early (March/April) 2020, and,
barring a major design setback or unforeseen cost overruns, is expected to lead to a manufacture
and production contract prior to the completion date to maintain programme momentum.
According to an MoD statement to IHS Jane's , a planned review in 2018 will seek financial
approval to proceed with weapon design acceptance work, manufacturing, and F-35 integration. "If
the [weapon] development phase is successful," the MoD statement continues, "it is expected that
Spear will enter [UK] service in the mid-2020s."
Slater said the four-year weapons development programme "will culminate in a weapon ready for
integration on the F-35." However, he noted, there will not be a Spear release from an F-35 during
the weapons development phase - "but it will be ready for it". Spear is currently a candidate
weapon for the F-35 Block 4B software release, with the expectation for an in-service date from
2022. Block 4 software is intended to increase the weapons envelope of the F-35 and is designed
to counter advanced air-defence systems likely to be encountered past the 2040 timeframe.
Further, while Spear is being developed specifically for the UK F-35B - by definition, and in
aspiration it will also be a candidate for integration on F-35A and F-35C variants in the wider F-35
community.
SPEAR Cap 3 - the requirement
SPEAR is the MoD designator covering a portfolio of current and developmental capabilities
designed to address what it describes as "an enduring requirement to engage mobile and fixed
targets in hostile and complex environments, delivered through a range of weapons solutions,
which address the diverse target set."
The third of a prospective portfolio of five SPEAR air-to-surface solutions, SPEAR Cap 3 is
characterised by the MoD as "a new 100 kg-class weapon being developed to be the primary airto-ground armament for the Lightning II from 2021; and optimised for internal carriage [on the F35B]." Other SPEAR solutions include SPEAR Cap 1 and SPEAR Cap 2 - delivered by spiral
developments of Raytheon's Paveway IV precision-guided bomb and MBDA's Brimstone missile,
respectively. SPEAR Cap 4 will be provided by MBDA's Storm Shadow long-range, conventionally
armed, deep-strike weapon, and SPEAR Cap 5 will be met by what is currently designated as the
Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FCASW).
SPEAR Cap 3 is intended as a high load out, highly accurate, low-collateral-effects weapon able to
receive target updates via datalink in near real-time. It is required to destroy/defeat a broad and
diverse target set, including fixed, mobile, and re-locatable targets - from main battle tanks and
heavily armoured vehicles, soft-skinned vehicles, current and projected air-defence systems, to a
range of maritime threats - in complex, hostile environments, in all weathers, day and night, amid
restrictive rules of engagement (RoE), and with the ability to defeat countermeasures.

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MBDA Spear missile solution for the UK MoD's SPEAR Cap 3 requirement. (MBDA)
1635789
Range is key to the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement, which has essentially been framed to deliver the
necessary stand-off capability to allow the launch platform to remain outside the effective
engagement envelope of modern integrated air-defence system threats, typified by the Russian S300 PMU2 (SA-20 Gargoyle), S-400 Triumf (SA-21 'Growler'), and prospective S-500 (Prometey
[Prometheus]/Triumfator-M) surface-to-air missile systems.
SPEAR Cap 3 is one of a number of missile programmes being pursued under the Portfolio
Management Agreement (PMA). Launched in March 2010, the PMA establishes a joint
governance and management structure between the MoD and MBDA to deliver the future
requirements of the UK Complex Weapons sector. Designed to provide long-term assured military
capability, operational sovereignty, and value-for-money through a sustainable UK industrial base,
the PMA is underpinned by a broadly stable funding pipeline, currently valued at about GBP600
million. Key to delivering this capability is the operating concept of commonality, modularity and reuse, where commonality means providing one weapon to meet multiple requirements, and
modularity and re-use entails designing common sub-systems that can be used across different
weapons. The PMA, notes Slater, has been fundamental to MBDA's Spear development "because
it allows us to have an environment where we really understand our customer's requirements and,
at the same time, have a consistent dialogue and working context that allows us to move forward
with the programme."
According to the MoD "the capability assessment, which formed the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement,
was first initiated in 2002, under a pre-concept programme of work. A number of MoD research
strands along with the pre-concept and later concept phases, have, since 2005, optimised the
weapon to complement the capabilities of the F-35 aircraft and meet the [UK] Strategic Defence
and Security Review findings." However, the UK MoD's SPEAR Cap 3 (100B) requirement, and
hence the solution, has evolved over a number of years.
While Spear draws upon technologies and design advances from other missiles and subsystems
in its portfolio, MBDA has also been able to leverage key MoD research and technology initiatives
that were crucial in shaping the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement, notably the Sensor to Effect Phase 2
(S2E2) and Weapon Datalink 2 programmes.
S2E2 prototyped a networked weapon system to enable precision guidance of a weapon at ranges
only limited by a weapon's fuel payload, and the range of communications and targeting systems
employed in the engagement. Under S2E2, which included the participation of the Defence
Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), MBDA, and QinetiQ, a Brimstone missile housing was
used as a surrogate airframe to host a new datalink, GPS system, and data fusion processor
capable of delivering the missile from range with the precision of a laser designator without the
range constraints that the laser presents. Using the Variable Message Format standard, S2E2
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demonstrated how target information - derived from any source on the network - could be passed
to the missile before launch and in flight.
Captive carry trials performed in 2012 demonstrated the ability of the missile to receive contextual
data on a ground target via datalink, and then extrapolate the target from a very complex
background environment using a modified Brimstone millimetric wave (mmW) seeker. The
Weapon Datalink 2 initiative integrated Link 16 terminals into a Time Sensitive Target Test Bed
(TST-TB) - a real-time environment for the experimentation of networked weapon systems which
permits experimentation and proof-of-principle demonstrations of the Link 16 net to support
SPEAR Cap 3 engagement.
The challenger
A potential fly in the ointment from MBDA's perspective was the decision in April 2014 by the
MoD's Investment Approvals Committee (IAC) to issue a review note requesting an assessment of
other potential SPEAR Cap 3 solutions including, most notably, Raytheon's GBU-53 Small
Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II) - a 208 Ib (94.3 kg) precision-guided glide bomb intended for
external carriage on US Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle and US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
platforms, and internal carriage on the USAF's F-35 platforms.
Despite being a non-powered solution, with the consequent slower time to target and shorter
stand-off range, particularly in adverse wind or low altitude release conditions, Raytheon saw an
opportunity to potentially break Team Complex Weapons domination of the UK missile sector,
touting the potential for major "savings on the development, integration, and higher acquisition
costs of another weapon". In a statement to IHS Jane's , Raytheon noted, "As SDBII is already
funded as part of the JSF programme it would have offered an extremely low technical risk route to
providing SPEAR Cap 3 and F-35 capability and therefore earlier entry into service. With high SDB
II production volumes the cost of each weapon would be considerably less than that of its
competitor. The other aspect was the industrial benefits which were estimated at over GBP500
million between 2017 and 2025 and which would have seen no investment by the UK government.
This would have included exports, which would benefit from the scale of the JSF programme and
its long life." In June 2015, Raytheon also indicated that it was open to developing a powered
version of the SDB II to meet the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement, if the UK MoD was interested.

The UK MoD has precluded Raytheon's GBU-53/B SDB II for the SPEAR Cap 3 requirement or as
an interim option for the UK F-35B. (Raytheon)
1461013
However, following a moment when the SDB II option threatened to jeopardise the survival of the
current SPEAR Cap 3 development programme, the MoD confirmed its commitment to a
sovereign solution. In February 2015, after a comprehensive project review the IAC approved full
cost and time increases for the Assessment Phase with MBDA, and noted that the SPEAR Cap 3
Key User Requirements had been re-endorsed by Air Command. It also agreed to defer Main Gate
approval from late 2015 to 2018.
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The National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2015 noted, "MBDA's SPEAR Cap 3 weapon, is
the only weapon in the market that fulfils all the Key User Requirements (the US SDB II) weapon
falls short on a number of the Key User Requirements) and there is clear Operational Analysis that
supports the UK procurement of SPEAR Cap 3."
The timing might be fortuitous. On 24 August Bloomberg News reported that "The [US] Air Force
and the Defense Contract Management Agency estimate that Raytheon's USD392 million
development contract for the Small Diameter Bomb II will cost an extra USD109 million because of
development setbacks and two flight-test failures .... An additional overrun of about 36% is
projected under the initial USD27.6 million contract for production, which has yet to begin."
Further, rumours that SDB II could potentially offer an interim strike capability pending the
finalisation of Spear were erroneous, and have now effectively been scotched by the MoD. A
Defence Equipment and Support spokesperson told IHS Jane's in August, "Raytheon is a valued
supplier to the MoD. The MoD recognises Raytheon as a world-class provider of solutions and
services, and places great value in Raytheon's engagement throughout the decision making
process, but has no requirement for anymore SDB II information".
Programme Evolution
However, MoD approval in April 2010 for the Assessment Phase for SPEAR Cap 3 with funding
appropriated under the Complex Weapons pipeline has been key to MBDA maturing its SPEAR
Cap 3 (100B) solution to its current Spear design (and designator). Concept Design Review and
Phase 2 Gate Review for the programme were completed in July 2011.
Since then, MBDA has sought to refine and evolve its Spear offering. An early design, presented
in mid-2011, revealed the turbojet-powered concept, but with a box-shaped airframe, highmounted flip-out wing surfaces, a cruciform tail, and a flush intake in the lower body. By mid-2012,
with the United Kingdom re-committed to the F-35B variant of the JSF - MBDA had advanced
Spear to the now more familiar design, which features a new circular 180 mm cross-section
airframe, dorsally mounted flip-out wings (folding rearward for stowage), a revised intake
arrangement with twin side inlets, and three folding tail surfaces in an inverted 'Y' configuration.
As currently configured, Spear weighs less than 100 kg and is less than 2 m in length. Designed to
operate as an all-weather capability, the missile features a new multi-mode seeker and integrated
inertial and anti-jam GPS navigation; Spear also includes a new multi-effects warhead with
multiple-fuzing options - which allows for tuneable effects to target for enhanced lethality, but low
collateral risk - a two-way datalink, and turbojet propulsion delivering a given range of 'around
100km'. The missile can be used in both fire-and-forget and semi-active laser designation modes,
as well as being fully network enabled.

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The Spear seeker data assembly mounted under a Piper Navajo testbed during seeker data
gathering trials in 2014. (MBDA)
1635797
This configuration has been advanced to a significant degree of maturity under the GBP150 million
Assessment Phase, through three distinct, but complementary work streams: Selectivity and
Precision; Lethality; and Airframe and Propulsion.
Selectivity and precision
"At the heart of the new weapon is a true evolution and revolution of the Brimstone Dual Mode [RF
imaging and SAL] seeker," said Slater. In essence the company has taken the Brimstone dualmode seeker and is now developing new algorithms and a new processing capability that enables
the missile to 'see' and record images of the target area through the RF element of the seeker.
This allows for extreme precision in complex scenarios.
In 2014 the company conducted a series of trials over two successful campaigns on a Piper
Navajo testbed to evaluate and prove the seeker concept. "We flew different profiles against
ground targets of many different types in many different scenarios to emulate the missile's
engagement of those targets. We knew the scenario beforehand, so we could effectively be the
platform aircraft and give information to the seeker about the target scenario. We subsequently
took the seeker and its processor and post-analysed the data to ensure that if we say the scenario
looks like this, the seeker compares that information with its own view of the scenario and picks
out the specific target that we want to engage."
The company is now maturing the new algorithms with a view to generating the first standard of
the new seeker capability, and by 2017 the company will have finalised development of a 'real'
scaled-down seeker that will be ready to fly on the Spear missile.

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True to MBDA's mantra of 'modularity and re-use', Slater noted that the micro-electromechanical
systems (MEMS)-based inertial measurement unit (sourced from UTC Aerospace Systems) that
equips Spear "will be common to other products that are currently in development: it has been
derived from the family that we use for CAMM [Common Anti-air Modular Missile]; it will be
compatible therefore with ASRAAM as well Sea Venom - so commonality across a number of
systems."
Slater said Spear's actuation system is also common to Sea Venom, CAMM and ASRAAM. "It's
not precisely the same of course, but effectively the fundamentals are all part of a common family."
The missile's two-way datalink - which allows in-flight updates, retargeting, and abort functions has yet to be selected. Slater confirmed that the datalink will be US-sourced - because it has to be
compatible with the F-35 platform - and will be specific to the Spear platform, so no modularity and
re-use. "The datalink is extremely important for us - we can go through completely pre-planned
missions, but the datalink gives us that extra flexibility to engage targets that are moving, relocatable or if just that the situation changes, we can re-target," said Slater.

Eurofighter Typhoon Production aircraft BS116 flies a Spear demonstrator during Airframe and
Propulsion trials in March 2016. (BAE Systems)
1635795
During the development phase, all trials of the missile will be conducted from a Eurofighter
Typhoon platform, the designated development platform for Spear. However, Typhoon is not
equipped with Northrop Grumman's F-35-assigned Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), and
therefore MBDA will not be able to conduct in-flight datalink work until Spear is integrated with the
F-35B. In the interim the company will conduct ground trials to mature its selected datalink
capability, including some integrated testbed trials.
Weapon Lethality
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MBDA's subsidiary, TDW - which was selected under a competitive process - is developing the
new lethality package for Spear. Uniquely, this insensitive munition (IM)-compliant warhead
delivers a tandem shaped-charge effect against armour, a blast/fragmentation effect against light
armour soft-skinned vehicles, and a breach/penetrate effect for hardened structures and buildings.
The warhead/fuzing can be pre-programmed before flight and on the delivery platform in transit to
the target - or after the weapon has left the platform - to deliver tailored effects against different
target sets.
"This warhead is unique, and has modes that we have not seen on our weapons before," said
Slater. MBDA worked with TDW from 2012 through to early 2016 to develop and mature the new
multi-effects warhead. This was followed by a comprehensive set of trials that included dynamic
sled tests, fragmentation trials, fragmentation pattern trials, IM trials, and engaging reinforced
concrete, different armoured targets, and different soft-skinned targets. "We have had tremendous
results from a very broad range of trials that have been conducted with heavy involvement with the
UK MoD, which provides us with great confidence in the design of this solution that we now take
forward into development," said Slater.
Airframe and propulsion
Spear requires an airframe that is able to engage targets in complex environments at range - to
achieve this it has a wing kit, but more importantly it has the Pratt & Whitney TJ-150-3 single spool
turbojet propulsion system.
"This aspect of the weapon is critical," said Slater. "It's very deliberate, it's very specific, it allows to
not only get to the target quickly, but also to engage targets with different releases from the aircraft
platforms that would not normally be possible from a glide type of weapon system. It also allows us
to engage in a very broad set of environments and still maintain our range - particularly directly
into headwinds."
A development of the TJ-150 small turbojet engine, which powers Raytheon Missile Systems'
AMD-160B/AMD-160C Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD/MALD-J), the TJ-150-3 has been
modified and sized to be compliant with the Spear airframe constraints for internal carriage on the
F-35B. Pratt & Whitney was awarded a contract in December 2011 to develop the TJ-150-3 for the
Assessment Phase. The critical design review was completed in March 2013 and prototype engine
deliveries to MBDA began in early 2014.
Follow-on ground trials assessed the performance of the TJ-150-3 against major performance
parameters including a key MBDA requirement: a 'windmill start', where the turbojet starts under
windmill turning of the turbo itself, as opposed to the use of pyrotechnics to fire off the turbojet.
This culminated in March 2016 with an airframe and propulsion demonstration trial at the
MoD/QinetiQ Aberporth range, in Wales, and the first release of a powered Spear missile from
Eurofighter Typhoon Production Aircraft BS116 (flown from BAE Systems Warton).
"The trial not only demonstrated how we could release the weapon from the aircraft. It showed
how we could transit from our stowed position, effectively eject from the aircraft in its inverted
position, flip through 180 to transition to stable flight with deployment of wings, actuation and fin
control system, into powered flight with the start of the turbojet and navigate with the autopilot to a
pre-determined target point," said Slater. "It is unprecedented to get to this stage so early in the
programme, but it gives you a real view of the maturity of the weapon and demonstrates that we
have got the airframe right."

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Launch plan
Spear is a weapon system, integral to which is the launcher. In September 2011, MBDA initiated a
study for a new, modular launcher after the Cobham BRU-61/A launcher was assessed to be
incompatible with the environmental parameter requirements of Spear.
In the context of F-35, MBDA is now developing a four-pack launch system, which allows for four
Spear missiles in each of the two internal bomb bays of the F-35B. The company is also 'exploring'
external carriage options on F-35, which would deliver a total load (internal/external) of 16 Spears
on the platform.

MBDA has developed a 3- and 4-pack launcher for the Spear missile. (MBDA)
1635790
Alongside this, the company is also developing a three-pack launcher for the Typhoon, which
provides for a load-out of 12 externally carried missiles.
In parallel, it is developing an intelligent launcher interface (launcher electronics assembly) which
can be integrated into any launcher to allow any platform to fire its Brimstone missile. In UK
service, this solution will be common across the three Brimstone-designated platforms - Typhoon,
Reaper RPAS, and prospectively the AH-64E - although the launcher hardware will be different.
This will also be the common 'brains' in the launcher for the Spear weapon on the F-35B.
The aspiration in the UK context - at least from the MBDA perspective - is to integrate Spear on
both the F-35B Lightning II and the RAF Typhoon FGR4 platforms, exploiting synergies from
Brimstone integration on Typhoon, to enable a straightforward integration for Spear as the
development programme moves forward. "Over the last few years we have worked with BAE
Systems to ensure that aerodynamically, and in terms of the interfaces with the aircraft, we have
maintained a common set of parameters across Spear and Brimstone, and that allows us to very
much simplify the way that we approach [Spear] integration on Typhoon," said Slater.

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However, the MoD told IHS Jane's in August 2016, "On current plans, SPEAR Cap 3 would enter
service on the F-35 during the middle of the next decade [mid-2020s]. Typhoon will continue to be
used as a weapons trials platform to demonstrate the performance and capabilities of the weapon
ahead of integration onto the F-35, however, there is currently no requirement to introduce SPEAR
Cap 3 operational capability onto Typhoon."
COMMENT
The Spear/SPEAR Cap 3 weapon development contract is a major boon for MBDA and arguably
portends a step change in the UK complex weapons sector in terms of the global market, with
possibilities in the wider F-35 community - and prospectively other fast-jet platforms - outside of
the United States. Slater noted, "Perhaps uniquely SPEAR Cap 3, and our response, Spear, has
been designed specifically for F-35. This isn't importing a weapon that we already have onto a new
platform - from day one, everything that we have been involved in responding to the SPEAR Cap 3
requirement has been to produce a weapon specifically for the F-35 - in the case of the UK,
specifically for the F-35B. By definition therefore, this weapon could be integrated onto F-35A and
F-35C".Further, as it continues to apply the mantra of 'commonality' not just to its current systems,
but also to project opportunities for future capabilities, MBDA is viewing the potential to exploit
Spear technologies for other applications, notably the prospective 'Common Anti-surface Modular
Missile (CAsMM)', a company-financed initiative to inform potential development of an over-thehorizon precision-attack weapon for land and maritime applications.

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Rendering of MBDA's Spear missile being launched from the weapon's bay of an F-35 Lightning II
multi-role fighter aircraft. (MBDA)
1635791

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MBDA Spear quad-pack on display at the Farnborough Air Show 2016. (R Hughes)
1635793

A Spear demonstrator on Eurofighter Typhoon Production Aircraft BS116 flies during Airframe and
Propulsion trials over Aberporth range in West Wales in March 2016. (BAE Systems)
1635796

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