MBDA has received an order to build further Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles for the German Air Force.

MBDA say that Meteor is the world’s most advanced air-to-air missile, and has a unique ramjet propulsion system that allows it to fly further and faster than any other air-to-air missile – allowing it to defeat manoeuvring targets even at extreme ranges.

Éric Béranger, CEO of MBDA said:

“The Meteor programme can be considered Europe’s most successful defence co-operation programme, bringing together the best technologies from six European nations to deliver a common military capability that is truly revolutionary. We are very pleased to receive this additional contract from the German customer as a further commitment to Meteor as the primary air dominance weapon for Eurofighter.

Signed on the 16th of December, the contract was awarded to MBDA by the Meteor Integrated Joint Programme Office on behalf of the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support.

Unlike traditional air-to-air missiles that glide unpowered for most of their flight, limiting their ability to hit agile targets at long distances, Meteor’s ramjet provides sustained thrust at speeds in excess of Mach 4 all the way to the target.

Meteor is now cleared for frontline service with all of Europe’s domestic fighter aircraft, Gripen, Typhoon and Rafale.

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Nigel Collins

“I’ve often advocated in the past that we should sell off the T1’s (54) in favour of the T3 A’s with the option of some Gripen E (around half the cost for low-intensity conflicts/maritime policing duties around UK shores) increasing the overall number of aircraft available to the RAF until the arrival of Tempest sometime in the 2030s. No surprises then that they are ordering more Meteor missiles for current and future aircraft. ​”Germany appears poised to advance a joint programme with Spain to equip the nations’ later-model Eurofighters with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, as Berlin also nears… Read more »

Spyinthesky

So good apparently you said it twice.

Rob

Germany appears poised to advance a joint programme with Spain to equip the nations’ later-model Eurofighters with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, as Berlin also nears approving the acquisition of 38 new aircraft to replace its Tranche 1-standard interceptors.”

Steve

The problem with this, is the lack of pilots, doubling the air frames is only useful if we have the pilots to crew them. Additionally no one really knows who wins between offensive and defensive aids in a peer level warfare. If the defensive aids on the other side is able to beat the beyond visual range missiles, then the combat rapidly moves to much closer combat where defensive aids are less effective, and then agility etc of the aircraft come into play, something the eurofighter beats the griphen on paper. Every war has proved high tech tecnology doesn’t work… Read more »

Nigel Collins

“The problem with this, is the lack of pilots, doubling the airframes is only useful if we have the pilots to crew them.”

I think we do Steve. The problem is the time it is taking to get them trained as well.

“Three hundred and fifty pilots, including helicopter and fast-jet pilots, are waiting to fly because of a shortage of planes and instructors.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47420698

Steve

This is beyond me technical knowledge, but how many of them are being held back by front line jets and how many by instructors/trainer jets? Buying more front line aircraft won’t solve these problems, money needs to be spent to train instructors/ maintain the knowledge.

Daniele Mandelli

This was the DSs requirement of the RAF to start this review. Get pilots through the system before you think you want more shiny toys.

I assume the government themselves inflicted the MFTS on the RAF?

DaveyB

THe main issue is lack of training aircraft and instructors. We have plenty of new pilot recruits, there just isn’t the infrastructure to push them through (due to privatisation).

Daniele Mandelli

The MFTS. How many Texan trainers did the contract require? 9? Replacing 100 plus Tucano.

OT but we had the same draconian madness when 34 Wildcat and 67 Apache replaced 200 plus Lynx and Gazelles.

No wonder there’s a shortage of planes.

The RAFs 1, 2, 3, and 4 FTS worked perfectly well for decades I believe? Why privatise a system that worked?

Nigel Collins

Because it did Daniele, the powers that be have never quite understood the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and as a consequence, we end up in situations like this.

Steve

My guess this is a long term impact of the SDSR2010, which was all about cost cutting at all expense. The MOD less obvious capabilities to save front line stuff, because this was more politically acceptable, and in turn losing more experienced pilots that could become trainers.

Steve

Although it was probably the right move, high end assets would never be replaced if cut, but low end stuff can be replaced if the money returns to cover the costs.

Ian

Who was worse for our military Brown or Osborne?

Steve

my feeling is its our military. The top people don’t speak out about capability shortages or gaps and don’t explain what it means they only do it after they retire, which allows for constant cuts.

Steve

How we ended up in Iraq/Afgan without enough bullet proof vests/machine guns/ammo/radio’s etc, basic kit without anyone ever mentioning the massive shortage before hand.

Same with the vehicles, why did no one mention before that they weren’t even bullet proof, which i would assume would be a absolute basic for any combat role. You can understand lack of IED protection but not that.

The military needs to stop playing political games and speak up.

Paul T

Take the QE Carrier’s for instance – who were the main drivers for their introduction, was it Government Minister’s,the MOD or was it down to some lobbying by the Top Brass in the RN ?.

Mr Bell

What’s wrong with the QE carriers, fantastic ships. They are utterly going to save our collective bacon one day, just so long as we follow through and order at least another 48F35B and some more escort warships.
A few more merlins and Poseidon would also not go amiss

Steve

I think that is the problem in a nutshell. The carriers could be great, but require major investment elsewhere to make them really effective. Realistically if we go to war alongside the US we do not need the carriers, as one US carrier would bring way more fire power than both of them combined. The times we might need the carriers is when we are either going it alone or in alliance with less major countries, at which point the lack of escorts and jets become a major problem and if anything the carriers become a liability as they would… Read more »

Steve

Now that doesn’t mean they are bad assets to have, my feeling is the money could just have been better spent else where. £6b could have given us 6 more major escorts or 4-5 and close the recruitment gap.

Robert blay

And 6 Frigates/Destroyers doesn’t come close to the capability and options it gives the government, and the RN knows this very well.

Sean

Remember Blair saw the QE carriers as being the centre of EU Carrier Groups, that’s why the number of escorts wasn’t seen as an issue. The RN will be able to provide sufficient escorts for them both simultaneously on current life-extension/build plans. BUT it would require most of the RNs assets to do so, and not leave much available for anything else.
For example, each carrier would need two T45’s, which means 4 if both deployed, with the remaining 2 under maintenance, leaving none available…

Steve

We have the assets to deploying them in peace time and against low level opposition but against anyone vaguely on par or near par we don’t. The task force sent to the Falklands was inadequately numbered and that caused massive strains on what could be done, which was with a navy significantly larger than today and thats before you consider the inability to man what we do have or shortage of ammo/missiles to go around etc etc. If we want to make the carriers viable we have to pull back a bit on our global thin coverage. For sure both… Read more »

Sean

Sadly we don’t have the naval capacity of the ‘80s, but then most other countries are in the same position – with the obvious exceptions of China and India. When the 2 CVA-01 carriers were planned, they were to have 4 Type 81 air-defence destroyers to protect them, so we’ve done well to get the 6 Type 45’s. Bar a major global conflict, I’d doubt we’d ever deploy more than one carrier in combat, but at a squeeze could be done. But agreed, we should have more frigates – I’d timetable procurement so we always have one to two under… Read more »

Paul T

Might I suggest that in a conflict with a Peer Enemy, while One Carrier operational at a time makes sense,you probably don’t want the other one sitting in port,just in case.If you could try and hide it that would also need the services of Escorts.

Sean

That would depend on distance from peer adversity. If flying distance, such as Europe, then it may be vulnerable to air-attack though hopefully the RAF would be on their toes. Otherwise you’re looking at a submarine attack, that would then be a test of RN base defences.
But even in wartime, ships including carriers, need to be docked at times for repairs & maintenance, replenishing, etc.

ChariotRider

Hi Steve, “The carriers could be great, but require major investment elsewhere to make them really effective.” Yup, couldn’t agree more. “if we go to war alongside the US we do not need the carriers, as one US carrier would bring way more fire power than both of them combined.” I don’t think it is that simple. From what I have read over the years the US carriers certainly pack the biggest punch, but they also require a lot of careful maintenance. Their nuclear power plants mean that refits can be quite lengthy affairs as it takes quite some time… Read more »

Robert blay

It was the outcome of the 1998 strategic defence review that outline the requirement for large aircraft carriers to replace the much smaller Invincible class. A rare good decision from a Labour gov.

David Flandry

Yes.

Sean

Brown because of both his time as Chancellor where he failed to build up reserves for a rainy day… and then as PM during the Financial Crisis when he then had to borrow to bail out the banks. That resulted in so much debt, whoever followed would have to make cuts… indeed Labour’s were planned to be more severe but they lost the election.

Robert blay

And those Wildcats and Apache’s eclipse the capabilities of previous generations of Lynx and Gazelles.

Daniele Mandelli

I do not disagree with you on that Robert.

I always feel a balance between quality and quantity is in order. And to me that is lacking in many areas.

Cam

Considering we have lost a few training bases and their planes and almost half our helicopter fleet and fast jet fleet I’m not surprised we haven’t enough! I’ll never forgive our government for making us much weaker…to think we were once a powerful nation!

Robert blay

We are a powerful nation. Things change, we can’t keep harking back to the ‘good old days’ of large numbers of crap equipment. Today’s Armed Forces have never been better equipped, it’s just in much smaller numbers. And we have way more then most nations.

Daniele Mandelli

We are a powerful nation Cam mate.

Bluemoon

Yet it’s not as simple as one for one replacements is it? With a lot of assets, new generations provide an increase in overall capability, often with less physical numbers. Even the humble infantry soldier is arguably more capable today.
As far as pilots go, we are heading in a direction where we won’t need as many of them soon either, or to be more precise, pilots actually inside the aircraft!

Bluemoon

Also, history teaches us that new weapons systems are inherently difficult to get to acceptable level at first attempt, but it is worth persevering. The P51 Mustang being my prime example and I hope we can say the same for the F35 Lightening II.

Robert blay

As I have said before, we have Typhoon and F35B,If the MOD had some spare cash it would be better spent of more/upgrades to Typhoon & F35. Why waste precious money on buying a less capable aircraft then what we have already got.

Rudeboy

The German order for additional Meteor missiles should be put in the context that their initial order was comparatively small (<c200 missiles). The UK's order was for over 400 in comparison, plus the UK has Amraam C-5 and 200 Amraam D coming soon, the Luftwaffe has B's and C's only. Add in Asraam's superior range to IRIS-T and the Germans have a range gap to fill. The B variants will be end of life soon, and are not worth re-lifing. The C's are a little younger but will need replacing by 2030ish. There are also no longer 54 Tranche 1… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Rudeboy,

Thanks for the numbers rundown – interesting.

Unfortunately, Typhoon of any variant does not fit with the requirements for the North Amercian Air Defence (NORAD) treaty between Canada and the US, hence the Europeans pulling out of the current Canadian CF18 replacement programme. So I doubt very much that a fleet of old Tranche 1’s even if sold cheap would come close to meeting the Canadian requirments.

Rob N

Does anyone know when UK F35s will get Meteor! I know tgat the f35 Meteor is a slightly modified variant with shorter longer tail Finns but when will it be in service?

Steve

The plan is for them to get it.

Nigel Collins

Hi Rob N,
2025/5 once the block 4 upgrade is completed. Spear Cap 3 around the same timeframe.

https://defense-update.com/20170421_f35_meteor.html

Nigel Collins

2024/5 sorry!

Steve

based on current prediction timings, i would add another 5 years to that.

Nigel Collins

I would not be in the least bit surprised Steve!

Rob N

Many thanks…

It all takes such a long time – the standard Meteor is already in service. I find amazing it takes that long to add a slightly upgraded Meteor to the F35..

The sooner we get it on the F35 the better. Is ASRAAM integrated yet. I think I say one on QE F35s….

Nigel Collins

Possibly, I’m not sure if testing has concluded and reached IOC
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/british-armed-f-35b-lightning-jet-takes-to-the-skies

Rob N

The article suggests ASRAAM may be operational on UK F35s by now… thats a start…

Watcherzero

The main thing slowing weapons integration on the F-35 is a limited pool of software coders working slowly through the request list.

Steve

Has the US release the code to us or are they still refusing to?

Rob N

As far as I remember they agreed to release the full code as we insisted on a sovereign capability. I do not know if we have the full code yet – I assume so.

Watcherzero

We have the code I believe (though having it and knowing it sufficiently for writing updates that are internationally compatible are a different thing), they have been refusing to release it to Japan or allow them to become a full partner, part of the reason theyve gravitated towards european rather than US partnership on their next fighter programme.

Rudeboy

Bit late to the party but I thought I’d chime in on the UK’s weapon fit for F-35…bit long winded (to say the least) but what the hell… UK F-35B armament is a little confused at present as a number of capabilities are being developed concurrent with F-35B development and deployment. It’s easiest to split it out into time periods: Present ASRAAM – AIM-132 – Cleared for outer pylon, one of the best WVR missiles out there, far faster and longer ranged than other WVR missiles (60km+ range). AIM-9X uses the same seeker head. Asraam isn’t in wide NATO service.… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Thank you for taking the time to give an in-depth account as to where we stand Rudeboy, the Block 4 upgrade will no doubt improve the weapons performance of the F35B, but at what cost I wonder?

“The total cost of the F-35 program grew by $25 billion in 2018—or about $95 billion when adjusting for inflation—in part because of a new slate of upgrades known as Block 4, the Pentagon said in an annual acquisition report published Aug. 1.”

https://www.airforcemag.com/block-4-upgrades-prompt-rise-in-f-35-program-cost/

Rudeboy

Practically all of those costs will be borne by the US. The UK’s share is comparatively minor. The US also has a larger number of aircraft that will need significant upgrades to be able to reach Block 4 standard. The vast majority of the UK’s 15 aircraft are Block 3F, so are primarily a software update to Block 4. The other 3 UK aircraft are test aircraft that will never be combat worthy. The MoD’s procurement of F-35 is working out pretty well so far. The next 17 that are on order are the last on the LRIP batches and… Read more »

ChariotRider

Hi Nigel Collins,

Yup the cost of the programme is still rising, but the cost per unit is coming down as production rises. The B variant will always be the most expensive, but taken with the reduced cost and risk associated with the carriers (look at the challenges faced by the USS Gerald R Ford) I think we are getting a pretty reasonable capability to be fair.

I also think that the UK’s slow procurement rate for the F35b could prove a blessing as others find the bugs in the software and then have to upgrade their early versions…

Nigel Collins

I think we will have a better picture of the Ford Class carriers during 2020. As for the F35B, there are still hurdles to get over of which this appears to be one. ISSUES “Lockheed Martin, the main American company building the jets, describes its stealth capabilities as “unprecedented”. By design, its advanced materials and other features make it “virtually undetectable to enemy radar”. However, the manufacturer has confirmed that its state-of the-art communications system cannot link up with older planes. This means the RAF’s F-35 pilots will have to switch to older systems to make contact with the UK’s… Read more »

Nigel Collins
ChariotRider

Hi Rudeboy,

Great summary of UK air weapons programme. Must have taken quite some research to get you head around all of that, so thank you for putting that effort in – appreciated.

I actually believe that the UK air weapons programme is one bright spot in an otherwise cloudy development and procurement picture. Says a lot about the good relationship between MoD and MDBA I think. I know when I was in the business on the one occasion I worked alongside MDBA I was impressed with their can do attitude, which I think fitted well with the services…

Nigel Collins

Could this be another reason why Germany is opting for replacement Typhoons?

Forces Network 9th October 2019 at 11:43am

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The overall programme is the most expensive weapons system in military history. An estimated cost from 2015 put the price at £78 million per jet, without engine or electronics.

For everything included, the Lightnings come in at a grand total of £190 million.

https://www.forces.net/news/what-you-need-know-about-f-35b

Sean

As you say, that’s a cost from 2015. Today’s cost is much lower as it’s been continually driven down each year. The price of the F35A, which Germany will be buying, has dropped most of all.
Given Germany’s resistance to spend on the military though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they reintroduced the ME109 instead…

Nigel Collins

Agreed Sean, but not by £100M+!

What interests me is the £78M figure, which is closer to the figure we hear banded about as the actual cost per aircraft. So, are we being misled as to the actual cost of the F35B? If forces.net is indeed correct it would appear so.

Steve

Taking NATO figures and converting to pounds at todays rate, Germany spends £40,445 euro vs UK £46,564, in other words Germany spends 86% of the amount the UK spends, without having nuclear deterrence costs.

Germany is due to spends more than France in 2019, Nato figures 47,320 euro vs France 44,300 euros

Yes they don’t make the nato 2% target, however they have a bigger GDP, and so the statement that they have resistance to spend is not entirely true.

https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2019_06/20190625_PR2019-069-EN.pdf

People get lost in the 2% and forget that actual money buys stuff not percentage.

Steve

Where their money goes is a whole different question and one that puzzles me.

Sean

Well for the F35A it’s now down to $82 million each for 2020 with it dropping to $78 million by 2022. These are the latest prices negotiated by the Pentagon and I believe all foreign sales go via the US DoD so the prices should be the same.
No details on F35B unfortunately, previously that had £20 million extra cost, but I’d expect that would drop too, especially with the orders coming in from nations looking to stick them in their helicopter carriers.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lockheed-f35/pentagon-announces-f-35-jet-prices-for-next-three-years-idUKKBN1X81I5

Nigel Collins

Thank you Sean,

Does it clearly state in the article if that includes engine and electronics in the price you mention?

“The MoD has so far refused to provide the estimated cost to the UK of buying the F-35, beyond referring to a National Audit Office report that put the total UK cost of the programme through to 2026 at £9.1bn. The MoD declined to offer even a rough figure beyond 2026.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/19/mod-failure-to-provide-f-35-cost-estimate-is-unacceptable-say-mps

Steve

Germany also has to consider the associated costs of buying a new type of aircraft, beyond the cost of the jet itself, from extra cost of training pilots, to expenditure on repair facilities etc.

My guess is the eurofighter would still be their best bet if it comes down to cost alone.

Paul T

Yes Typhoon does make sense if they are prepared to integrate B61 Bombs onto them.

Steve

they would have to pay for the integration whatever platform they choose, so that shouldn’t be a decider.

Sean

I would expect it would include those, otherwise you’re buying an F35 kit, not an F35 aircraft – hope that doesn’t give Ikea defence aspirations 😆

It’s possible the US DoD adds a markup on the price to skim some profit for themselves, but I very much doubt it. I believe that the DoD sets the price for each tranche of F35s, regardless of which nations get the aircraft that are produced.
As for the total programme cost, well that presumably includes not just the cost of purchasing the F35s, but training pilots, upgrades to RAF Marham, munitions etc, etc.

Steve

Considering as a ‘tier 1’ partner, we didn’t get any of the our own missiles/bombs (as in ones that the US doesn’t use itself) integrated in the design, i wouldn’t be surprised.

Sean

Well the US is shelling out the vast majority of the cash for the development of the F35 and buying the most, so priority goes to integrating its weapons first. Simple market economics. But non-US (ie U.K.) weapons are in various stages of integration with the F35B. Some will take longer – new fins for the Meteor to fit in the internal bay for stealth flying. As the only Tier 1 partner we paid approx 10% of development costs but get 15% of the work share. It also meant that uniquely we had design input into the requirements, abilities and… Read more »

Steve

‘input’ means very little, and is in practice worthless, everyone has input, its a question of who decides, which is clearly the US. The main weapon that the RAF use is the Brimstone, the fact that wasn’t considered in the initial design work, just tells you that the value of that ‘input’ is not worth the paper it is printed on. Whether it was the US fault for ignoring the request from the UK or the UK fault for not putting up the cash needed for the integration, who knows. The tail issue with the meteor is clearly our problem,… Read more »

Sean

‘Input’ can mean many things, but if someone continually ignores your opinion then you generally end the relationship and walk-away. The U.K. didn’t. As for Brimstone, which has been an undoubted success… I presume it wasn’t worth the cost given that SPEAR 3, which will have a great range than Brimstone, will be integrated with both the F35 and Typhoon. So why bother spending the money on integrating an older, short range missile? Actually we have invested in getting the Meteor tail fin issue solved. A new version with longer fins; to allow the same surface area as the original,… Read more »

Steve

I’m not anti American, I’m anti policitical spin, that has no substance behind it, like tier 1 partner and influence, oh and special relationship. Americans look after their own interests and that is expected, as all nations do. When the F35 was in development spear 3 was a concept and not integrating by design, brimstone makes no sense. Doing as part of the design wouldn’t have been that expensive, it’s doing it post design where the significant costs hit. Not to mention that even now spear 3 is years away, meaning should a war occur in the meantime, we have… Read more »

Sean

And it’s the Americans interests to have a strong relationship with an ally on this side of the Atlantic, which is why we are able to take advantage of opportunities not offered to other nations; the shared Trident missile pool for example. It’s in their best interests to keep us on side. Yes SPEAR 3 is 3 years away with development ending in early 2020. But the carriers won’t be combat ready until 2021, and it’ll be years after SPEAR 3 is introduced that we’ll have sufficient F35’s to fully load a carrier for a war situation. That’s not an… Read more »

Steve

Don’t forget the original plan was for both to be in service by now. Delays etc have caused the two to potentially align (assuming spear 3 makes its target) not design.

Rudeboy

What do you call Asraam and Paveway IV?
Thats 2/3rds of the UK F-35 weapons right there…

The other one is the Amraam C-5.

Rudeboy

F-35B is likely to be c$90-95m in FRP.

The really interesting bit that a lot haven’t noted is Lockheed’s 25 for 25 goal. Operating costs of $25,000 per flight hour in 2025. That’s a remarkable price if they pull it off. And apparently they’re reasonably confident. It’s well under half the cost of a Typhoon flight hour….add in an extra $5k for an F-35B and its still great.

ChariotRider

Yup, running costs is where the throughlife cost really goes. If Lockhead do hit that figure it will be a game changer and a challenge to Team Tempest.

Having said that there are life issues with the early airframes, which may need significant remedial work if they are to make their intended in-service operational lifespans. I wonder if those running cost include that little issue or if they apply to new builds only?

Other good reason to keep our initial buy modest… I just hope we buy the numbers we really need in the medium term.

expat

Wasn’t it a German Eurofighter that fired a Meteor accidentally over Poland!!

Rudeboy

No. It was a Spanish Typhoon that fired and Amraam.
It’s never been found, probably a B variant.

expat

Thanks for the clarification, couldn’t recall the details.