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The Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract worth around £184 million to ensure the UK’s new F-35 combat aircraft will be equipped with the latest ASRAAM air-to-air missile.

Designed and manufactured in the UK, ASRAAM is an advanced heat-seeking weapon which will give Royal Air Force and Royal Navy F-35 pilots, operating from land and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, “the ability to defeat current and future air adversaries”.

According to a press release, the new contract will see MBDA manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the weapon, allowing F-35 combat jets to use the missile beyond 2022. Work to integrate the new missile onto the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said:

“Wholly designed and built in the UK, this air-to-air missile on our F-35 aircraft will secure cutting-edge air power for the UK for years to come.

This contract will sustain around 400 jobs across the country and is part of the MOD’s £178 billion Equipment Plan which is backed by a defence budget that will increase every year from now until the end of the decade.”

Infographic of the ASRAAM missile. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a contract worth around £184 million to ensure the UK’s new supersonic stealth combat aircraft will continue to be equipped with the latest air-to-air missile. Designed and manufactured in the UK, ASRAAM is an advanced heat-seeking weapon which will give Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy F-35B Lightning II pilots, operating from land and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, the ability to defeat current and future air adversaries. The new contract will see MBDA manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the weapon, allowing F-35 combat jets to use the missile beyond 2022. Work to integrate the new missile onto the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract.
Infographic of the ASRAAM missile.

The award is part of an overarching agreement with MBDA which is sustaining around 200 jobs at the company’s sites in Bristol, Stevenage and Bolton, with a further 200 sustained across the supply chain. Work on ASRAAM will be carried out at MBDA’s new, £40 million state of the art manufacturing facility that is nearing completion in the Logistic North commercial development in Bolton.

MBDA’s investment in this new facility is a demonstration of the company’s commitment to maintaining highly skilled engineering jobs in the region as well as to providing the very best equipment required by the UK’s armed forces.

Chief Executive Officer at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, Tony Douglas said:

“ASRAAM will provide vital offensive and defensive options for UK F-35 pilots against a wide range of air-to-air threats.

The project to update the weapon and integrate it with the F-35, the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, provides a clear example of the MOD and UK industry working effectively together to provide our UK Armed Forces with the best equipment possible.”

ASRAAM is currently in service with Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and is being carried daily on missions over Iraq and Syria as part of the coalition fight against Islamic State.

The updated missile variant being secured under this new contract is expected to enter service on RAF Typhoon aircraft from 2018 and on RAF and Royal Navy F-35 aircraft from 2022, when the current variant will be taken out of service.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Well sort of CAMM is based on asraam , these new build asraams take advantage of modern components designed for CAMM.
    According to flight global they will also use a new MBDA seeker replacing the Raytheon one previously used (the same Raytheon seeker is also used on Sidewinder9x). The new seeker has cooling built in rather than using cooling from the aircraft, I’ve no idea of the technical side of this but assume it has various advantages such as making integration much easier.

  2. I’m wondering if they considered making a droppable version as opposed to rail launched so it could much more easily be used from the f35’s weapons bay. The flight global article does suggest MBDA haven’t given up on it being used from the weapons bay in future but it doesn’t mention how (there was a suggestion years ago of some sort of trapeze arm fitted to the weapons bay door but this was seemingly abandoned as too difficult or expensive).
    To me it seems mad that there is no IR HOBS missile that can be used on the F35 when in stealth mode, a market/weakness that MBDA might just be able to fill/correct.

  3. If the ASRAAM cannot be carried internally on the F35 surely the common sense option would be to procure the AIM9X. I understand that the P8 for RAF will be equipped with US weapons (Mk48 torpedo for example instead of UK stingray) as the cost of modifying the P8 to accept UK weapons was deemed prohibitive.

    • Aim 9x is also rail launched and also has much larger fins so would be even harder to use internally.

      The f22 has special bays for rail launched weapons the f35 does not so unless something new comes along its a rather big hole in its capability imho.

  4. Depending on how much they effect the radar signature being fitted externally, they pretty much wipe out the advantage that the f35 have in being stealthy. We can’t send jets into combat without air-to-air missiles, against any opponent that could have air defense, which stealth is designed to defeat, as any opponent with any form of half decent air defense is also likely mean they have fighters and no matter how good the stealth tech is, there is always a chance they will be spotted and need to go into air combat.

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