The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that both the Meteor air-to-air missile and SPEAR 3 cruise missile will be integrated on to UK F-35s by the “end of the decade”.

The latest confirmation of this information came from a response to a Parliamentary Written Question.

John Healey MP, Labour Defence Spokesman, asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what progress his Department has made on integration of UK weapons onto the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

James Cartlidge MP, Minister of State (Ministry of Defence), responded:

“The UK Lightning Force currently operates the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM), the Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM) and the Paveway 4 precision guided bomb. By the end of the decade both Meteor and SPEAR 3 will also be integrated to UK F-35s.”

Meteor is a ‘Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile’ system developed by MBDA. The Meteor programme sees the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden working together to provide access to technology and expertise across those nations.

You can read more about the missile here.

What was the original plan?

British F-35B jets were to be equipped with Meteor missiles by the ‘middle of this decade’ originally. The information came to light in a response to a written question submitted in the House of Commons.

Mark Francois, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford, asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what his timetable is for the Meteor air-to-air missile to achieve initial operating capability on the F-35 aircraft.”

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, responded:

“Initial development work for Meteor integration has progressed well. The Lightning Delivery Team within Defence Equipment and Supply (DE&S), through F-35 Joint Program Office has signed a contract to integrate Meteor in the middle of the decade.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Paul Bestwick
Paul Bestwick
2 months ago

US Defence companies delaying the intergration of non-US weapons to prevent sales other F-35 users. Not sure if this is a deliberate ploy on behalf of the US Government?

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

If true, crap behaviour, but maybe should have been expected? Hope they can find a way to squeeze up to 6 Meteors onto the F35B for more punch.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

Sorry you give the US government and Lockheed too much credit. This is just a result of Lockheed incompetence. LM makes little in the way of weapons competing against MBDA. The US government is having much the same issue with its weapons and its in dispute with LM over not accepting new aircraft that are not Tech Refresh 3 block IV capable.

These UK weapons were always part of Block IV it’s just block IV is years behind.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Believe the first semi-plausible/realistic schedule for completion of the Block 4 software mod will only be released once the JPO has signed the DD-250 (formal contractual acceptance) for the TR-3 mod. The validity of the revised Block 4 implementation schedule will range somewhere in the continuum between Scientific Wild-Assed Guess (SWAG) and fervent prayer by DoD and principal contractors. The good news is that the F-35 Program is sufficiently large and has enough stakeholders that abject failure is not an option. Reasonably certain this exercise has been sufficiently painful that DoD, MoD, etc., will not entertain the concept of “concurrency”… Read more »

DJ
DJ
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

There is also noticeable lack of US weapons, including some (quite a few actually), designed by LM itself. The handful of weapons that are integrated were intended to be enough to get the F35 operational. Block IV is where the F35 needs to be. Of course, everyone has been developing new & updated weapons & sensors on the assumption that this should have been sorted 10+ years ago. Meteor & Spear 3 are one of many in the queue. There is JSM, LRSM, HARM, JASSM, JASSM-ER, JAGM, Hellfire, Brimstone etc etc. Think about it. F35C is a carrier based fighter… Read more »

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  DJ

There has been way to big a gap between block III and block IV. Block IV has been re scoped as well to the point it’s practically a new version of F35 with new radar etc. it could practically be called F35 D,E,F

But weapon integration should not have had to wait nearly as long.

F35C in particular is years behind. Most USN carriers can’t even operate it and as you say not having an AShM on it yet is a glaring omission.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

The delay for F35C isn’t the aircraft itself. Its modifying the Nimitz class carrier’s to operate and add the engineering facilities for F35C operations.

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
2 months ago
Reply to  DJ

I thought Brimstone was dropped at the same time as Storm Shadow

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

Brimstone was never intended to go onto F35, only Typhoons. S3 was always slated to go onto our F35s.

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

According to Think Defence it was on the requirement till 2010

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

Ah ta, must have missed that bit. I knew SS was then got canned due to initial aircraft costs back around 2013 give or take, but not BS.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Storm Shadow, Brimstone and a lot of US weapons got dropped for cost reasons, but primarily it was time. It gave the programme additional time to claw back delays already present….but it was also an acceptance that the programme was that delayed that a lot of weapons on the Baseline integration list would actually be reaching out of service by the time F-35 was ready. e.g. Maverick, Harpoon and HARM were all on the list…. For the UK Storm Shadow, pre MLU, had an out of service date of 2025 so wasn’t worth integrating and Brimstone’s functionality was replaced with… Read more »

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

Cheers for that info mate. I always took it that SS got canned due to increasing airframe costs, as the B version was heading the wrong side of £100 million a pop at the time. Also wasn’t aware that SS OSD was originally 2025, which has now moved somewhere past 2030 to allow for the introduction of FC/ASM I believe.

Lord Baddlesmere
Lord Baddlesmere
2 months ago
Reply to  DJ

A realistic industry watcher might expect JSM, LRSM, HARM, JASSM, JASSM-ER, JAGM, Hellfire to be integrated prior to METEOR, SPEAR 3……

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

Stalled F-35 upgrades will delay next improvements, Wittman warnsDec 6, 2023 “Wittman said that deadline — more than a year late — is “very problematic, especially since we have a platform that we spent a significant amount of time and money on, and one that we know isn’t up to its full capability because of software inadequacies.” Wittman said he’s not confident the Pentagon and Lockheed will be able to deliver on the latest mid-2024 deadline for TR-3. “I want to be positive, but call me sceptical,” he said. Wittman said the F-35 program needs six more test beds of aircraft… Read more »

Redshift
Redshift
2 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

They should never have let the Post Office to project manage and Fujitsu/ICL write the code.

John Clark
John Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Redshift

That’s why the pilots are always getting accused of loosing Paveways , “I don’t understand it, it was there when I taxied out”!!

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 months ago
Reply to  Redshift

lol 😅

Steve
Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

Is there any evidence that it’s LM /US delaying things and not lack of funds being released by the UK government?

I do like the name of the team doing the work is called lightning, clearly not lightning fast.

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Bestwick

We have the F35 source code so we could do it ourselves…

DP
DP
2 months ago

Has this been one of the reasons (‘convenient’ some might say) why the UK MoD has such a slow take up of F35s I wonder? “We’ll place a firm order for more when the design can deliver what we want”?

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

Actually this has worked out fairly well for us because most of our fleet will be coming in later tranches that either are TR 3 block IV integrated or compatible. The USMC and other services are going to be junking dozens of early aircraft that can’t be cost effectively upgraded.

DP
DP
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

That’s actually a fair point Jim and as good a reason to slow take up, wait for TR 3 block IV integration. That said, isn’t integration of Meteor and Spear3 not dependent on TR 3 block IV? So, can we have Meteor and Spear3 without TR 3 block IV, I’m not sure? There’s also the power/engine upgrade is there not? Isn’t this an enabler for TR 3 block IV?

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

Yes it is now, block IV has been re scoped several times and now comes with TR3

That being said F35B with AMRAAM and Pave-way IV is still formidable.

F35B block IV with Meteor and SPEAR will be the most lethal thing on the planet.

DP
DP
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes, it does sound pretty awesome. We just need the carrier-borne in-flight refuelling and future-AWACS solutions to crystallise into a more tangible solution(s). Do you think a variant of Protector/Mojave might be the answer?

Meirion X
Meirion X
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

Mojave will Not be able to provide enough energy for AEW. Also insufficient fuel capacity.

DP
DP
2 months ago
Reply to  Meirion X

I’d probably agree. In hindsight, I suppose it’s difficult to see any variant of Protector/Mojave offering a solution to the in-flight refuelling and future-AWACS requirements, so ‘a variant’ would probably be a non-starter. Solutions would likely be heavy and in need of additional lift and assisted take-off and, therefore recovery. Quite a challenge for any solution developer with the current setup and probably the main reason why the RN are looking at Project Ark Royal.

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

We should buy some V-22 and turn some of them into AEW platforms. MV-22 would be a great addition to QE.

DP
DP
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

I’ve often heard it said on here that the V-22s are hugely expensive to buy and complex to maintain but I wonder (crystal ball-like) how much Project Ark Royal will end up costing the MoD along with whatever bespoke, niche solution it yields compared to a flight of off-the-shelf V-22s? Perhaps another thought, is the service ceiling of an Osprey limited like a helicopter, compared to a thoroughbred fixed-wing?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

V22s have a habit of late of falling out of the sky hence they are grounded.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

Combination of a MALE UAV like Mojave providing long range with a Proteous based radar providing shorter range but more detailed radar picture and the F35 own onboard radar and sensor fusion providing the rest.

Eventually that will all be supplemented by SAR satellites.

This is the USAF plan also to replace AWACS as well, E7 being a stop gap measure.

DP
DP
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Interesting, thanks Jim.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

I find it odd that people regard Asraam, Amraam and Paveway IV on F-35B acceptable….

When no-one thinks the almost same loadout (with Enhanced Paveway II and III) on Typhoon Tranche 1 is acceptable….

Bottom line is that the UK’s fleet of F-35B will be 15 years in operational service by the time the entire fleet will have additional weapons added….

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 months ago
Reply to  DP

You can expect a rush from the US and other international partners as the production line is scheduled to close in 2035. I wonder how much it will cost us to upgrade the engines x48? Pentagon Looking for Recommendations on F-35 January 17, 2024 “Another subcommittee witness, Jon Ludwigson, Director of Contracting and National Security Acquisition for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said the Defense Department (DoD) plan has been to procure 2,470 F-35s through 2035, to replace older Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fighter aircraft. The program has delivered since 2011, more than 900 F-35s to the U.S. military… Read more »

grizzler
grizzler
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

I disagree , there is abolutely no evidence that block IV will be delivered when they say it will be – and to suggest otherwise is a little naive.
We should not accept further delays in the delivery of F35B program/capability merely to accomodate the imaginary block 4 timelines.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

I am not sure your analogy of the USMC is correct. The B variant was designed for them. They never expected to use it in the roles that we are. For them it’s for ground attack in the role occupied by the AV8. Their issue would be with the C variant planned to replace their Hornets. I am sure the US Navy will fight that battle, not the Corps.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

The B variant is also partially replacing hornet for USMC and the USN is now routinely using America class lightning carriers to replace CVN in rotation.

The USMC is rapidly building its doctrine around what the F35B can or could do rather than fitting the aircraft into the very limited roles harrier could perform

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Thats not the case. Only 26 of the 74 will be Block IV Lot 19 standard which is the one we’re aiming for (with the full EW upgrades). The other 44 UK combat capable jets will all need upgrades. Granted we’re in a better position than the USMC or users who have had their entire fleet delivered (Australia) but it will still cost us £400m to get those 44 aircraft to the Block IV Lot 19 standard and it will take years to do so…. Basically don’t expect the entire UK F-35B fleet to be at a common Block IV… Read more »

McMeekin Ian
McMeekin Ian
2 months ago

This of course does not mean it will happen! It is not in US interests to integrate competitive weapons to this platform. Of course it is deliberate- As an example…. Has UK received source codes?

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  McMeekin Ian

Even the US has limited access to the source code like we also have, Much of it especially ALIS is Lockheed Martin proprietary technology.

The only people outside LM with access is Americas greatest friend and ally Israel. The only people not actually paying for any airplanes.

Lord Baddlesmere
Lord Baddlesmere
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

But it was a contracted I believe?

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

As I understand it there was a big political battle for us to have full access to the source code that went to the top. After much fighting as the only tier one partner we won the battle and got access. So we have a sovereign capability. So in theory we could integrate stores ourselves.

SATT44
SATT44
2 months ago

So it’s slipped from mid 2020s to late 2020s to definitely by the end of the decade. Just unnaccaptable.

Bulkhead
Bulkhead
2 months ago

I’ll belive it when it’s seen to be done 😎

Bob
Bob
2 months ago

More problems created by the bean counters.
If the UK had retained full T1 access it would have been able to integrate its own weapons onto the F35, as Israel has done.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Agree it should have been in initial agreement but the Pentagon never got it either.

LM low balled the bid knowing that if it controlled all the software it could screw Uncle Sam and everyone else on upgrades and maintenance.

All the pentagon was focused on was fly away cost which is ridiculously low compared to its predecessors.

BAE never put up a fight or even asked to have a European production line as they wanted into the back end gravy train of maintenance as well.

Aaron L
Aaron L
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Israel are the only people outside of LM that have been given access to be able to do it though. Even the US military doesn’t have access to it so they’re just as reliant on LM for integration as we are in reality.

John
John
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Funny considering that Israel is only a customer with zero involvement in development.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  John

Aye

farouk
farouk
2 months ago

I have to ask, why do so many opposition MPs ask questions about defence in the house (so the answers are public) when as MPs all they have to do is ask in private to the service in question.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  farouk

No publicity in that.

John
John
2 months ago
Reply to  farouk

To embarrass the government. Airing out the skeleton cupboard is the point.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  farouk

They don’t have a right to have the answer privately, only if they ask the question in the House of Commons. If the ask privately the executive can tell he. Any old rubbish..if they ask in the House of Commons it at least needs a semblance of an honest answer.

Frank62
Frank62
2 months ago

Glacial progress then. If we need these tomorrow or next year we go swivel!

Joe16
Joe16
2 months ago

While Meteor is excellent, the big capability jump (and export opportunity) will be Spear, and we should definitely prioritise that. Capability jump between Meteor and AMRAAM-D is not as significant as Paveway/JDAM to Spear- and there’s nothing in the US arsenal (or soon-to-be) that is the equal of it. Sure, they’ve got SDB, but that’s unpowered, as are their other offerings. Ukraine is showing us that range is vital in strong AD/EW environments, and the Spear platform gives more than anything else in the same size category. Other operators are going to want that, especially with EW payloads and potentially… Read more »

Netking
Netking
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

there’s nothing in the US arsenal (or soon-to-be) that is the equal of it.” Raytheon did disclose that internally they were working on a powered version of the SDB2 but no official program of record has been announced as yet.

Joe16
Joe16
2 months ago
Reply to  Netking

Ah fair point, I hadn’t seen that. Nonetheless, a single competitor that hasn’t been added to the integration path for F-35, let alone undertaken any actual flight testing like Spear has.
Mind you, Spear does seem to be languishing a little at the moment- first test flight was 2016 and it’s apparently experiencing programme issues because there aren’t enough qualified people to deliver it…

Jonno
Jonno
2 months ago

This is like watching paint dry. What at present is the armament of USA weapons loaded onto the F35? I have heard the reason for the delay in part is so the USA equivalent weapons could be integrated first but which were running far behind in development.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonno

The US, at present, is in pretty much the same place as us….

AIM-9X, Amraam, GBU-12…..which is their equivalent of Asraam, Amraam and PWIV.

The only other things operational for them are JDAM, SDB1 and basic versions of JSOW for the USN and USMC. All pretty simple weapons…nothing complex, notably no powered weapons for anyone except Air to Air missiles….

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
2 months ago

2030….. So if our adversaries could please just hang on until then, that would be great.

Marked
Marked
2 months ago

Wow. Only 6 more years before the jets are truly capable of next gen performance. Truly pathetic.

Put any more buys on hold then. Hit them in the bank account as it’s all they care about

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Marked

It’s far worse than that…. Only the last 26 of the UK’s 71 combat capable F-35B will be delivered at Block IV Lot 19 standard, because they will be built to that standard… The remaining 43 F-35B, the ones delivered by the end of 2025, will all require upgrades to differing degrees to reach that standard. The cost of those upgrades will cost £400m at todays pricing. And it will take until at least 2032/33 for those upgrades across the fleet to be finished…. So in reality we’re looking at 10 years from today for all UK aircraft to be… Read more »

Ben Coe
Ben Coe
2 months ago

So 2 large aircraft carriers with no serious capability to attack, err, ships?

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben Coe

Paveway IV will make a mess of a ship and we can get JSOW in an emergency.

RN doctrine has always been for SSN to sink ships, aircraft and ship launched missiles have always been seen as secondary.

Marked
Marked
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Good luck getting in paveway range, f35s are low radar signature, not invisible. How many subs do we have available? They can’t be everywhere at once.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Marked

Paveway IV needs a folding wing kit. It was proposed, but the usual lack of money………

Marked
Marked
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Not so much a case of lack of money, more of money pissed away on dead end projects and hideously inflated contracts intended to bung money to industry. We have the money but spend it horrendously.

Marked
Marked
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben Coe

No escorts either. Or RFA to support them.

TR
TR
2 months ago

How long does anything take to happen with the f35?

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago

Just read that the AARGM-ER is to be integrated on to all 3 versions of F-35. Would give UK F-35 a useful SEAD/DEAD capability, if we bought some.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
2 months ago

End of the decade? We could all be ash by then

Ruthy
Ruthy
2 months ago

At the end of the day the more F-35B’s the RAF get that are TR-3 enabled and Block 4 ready the better it is for us. At the same time getting these jets with with the APG-85 radar again should be seen as a priority. I read that the U.K. government has committed to buying TR-3 upgrade for most of the cabs in the fleet that aren’t lot 15 and beyond though I read cabs that where produced in Lots 1-5 cannot be upgraded to TR-3, I don’t know how airframes the U.K. bought in these lots, 5-10 at most?… Read more »

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago
Reply to  Ruthy

There is 1 UK aircraft in Lot 1-5 (with the exception of the first 2 ITF test aircraft which will not be upgraded). The first combat capable jet is BK-03 which was delivered in 2013. That is the only aircraft ‘at risk’. It was delivered as part of Lot 4. The 3rd ITF test aircraft was actually ordered after that in Lot 7. All of the other combat capable aircraft are from Lot 8 onwards. LRIP 1 – April 2007 – No UK Orders, (US F-35A only) LRIP 2 – July 2007 – No UK Orders (6 F-35B for USMC,… Read more »

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
2 months ago

A big question that no-one is asking in relation to this, and they should be…. Is….what will F-35B carry in place of Asraam? Because Asraam Block VI will not arrive until 2028, and the entire fleet won’t have it until 2032 when upgrades have happened…. Remember Block VI Asraam replaces all previous Asraam variants (which are currently being sent to Ukraine for use as SAM) because they are reaching the end of their life…. The UK MoD did a smart thing. Instead of re-lifing the stockpile of Block V and earlier Asraam they realised that new production would be almost… Read more »