MBDA is working in partnership with Leonardo to develop a new electronic warfare version of the SPEAR weapon system — SPEAR EW — which brings enhanced Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability to Eurofighter.

MBDA say that SPEAR EW uses the SPEAR missile as its baseline but, instead of a warhead and seeker, the payload is an Electronic Warfare (EW) device which is a state-of-the-art electronic jammer designed to confuse adversaries and keep pilots safe.


“At the heart of SPEAR EW is a miniaturised EW payload from Leonardo, based on the innovative BriteCloud technology. It uses less capacity than a conventional warhead and this extra volume means there’s additional fuel capacity. Hence, what looks and behaves exactly like a normal SPEAR has three times the range. Using the existing SPEAR architecture as the starting point has a number of other advantages. SPEAR EW’s power, weight, and centre of gravity remain exactly the same so integration is relatively straight-forward because activities that normally bring a level of complexity like flight test and separation clearance are already carried out.”


According to a release:

“It marks a fundamental change in the ability of friendly air forces to conduct their missions despite the presence of enemy air defences. SPEAR EW acts as a stand-in jammer which greatly increases the survivability of the Eurofighter by suppressing enemy air defences. It can be used for multiple different types of EW. At one end of the spectrum it could simply jam a radar, effectively blinding it, and at the other it could mimic 100s of different objects, therefore creating a mask.

This flexibility gives a pilot a range of options. Blinding a threat radar is an overt action but they can call on more subtle effects. For example, SPEAR EW can be used to create a decoy by making you appear bigger or appear as though there are 50 targets so that it’s impossible for an adversary to determine which is the real target. Alternatively, you might want to encourage the threat target to start shooting which would enable your forces to find it. Another option could be to get the adversary to train their fire at an imaginary target and therefore allow you through their defences.”

SPEAR EW isn’t simply restricted to land targets. It could be used for maritime strike to blind or confuse a ship.


MBDA and Leonardo have been awarded a contract to carry out a Technical Demonstration Programme (TDP) by Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S).

This one-year contract continues the development work already carried out by MBDA and Leonardo.

This will enable that work to mature. One of the aims is to keep development of SPEAR EW as closely aligned with the main SPEAR programme as possible to ensure any integration work is as seamless as possible.

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Just wondering, do devices such as the above come with a means of self destruction which prevents their secrets been made available to others?


The US MALD stand in jammer apparently has a suicide mode allowing it to crash into targets. That being said remember the EW payload is basically a Bright Cloud canister and the RAF fires them off the back of aircraft so they won’t be that classified in comparison to dedicated jamming pods. I suspect EW spear will retain the same guidance and targeting system as base line SPEAR allowing for the discarded weapon to be crashed into something.


There is no suicide explosive load onboard. But a 100kg missile travelling at 600mph has the ability to cause a lot of mess on its own. But Spear-EW (Not SPEAR – That’s the programme name) will carry the same GPS and IMU, but it will not carry the MMW radar/Imaging and SAL guidance of the ‘normal’ Spear. That space is taken up by the EW payload. The space taken up by the warhead is occupied by fuel. The GPS and IMU will enable a certain degree of accuracy, but not on moving targets, and without inferometers it won’t be homing… Read more »

Levi Goldsteinberg

I’ve read the EW variant at sea is designed to fly ahead of the explosive tipped missiles to jam radars and sensors before two of three explosive tipped missiles hit the target. I take it this is how the RAF envisage employing this – and if so – will the RN use the same on the F35s?


All F35’s in UK service are RAF aircraft, just some have FAA Pilots. SPEAR has a secondary role as maritime strike however the weapon has limited payload and range. Fine for knocking out corvettes but I would not want to be in an F35 trying to get close enough to employ it against a Dedicated AAW platform . I dare say the weapon would also have limited capability in the kind of EW environment surrounding a major task force even with an EW version leading the way.

Paul T

Id put money on the fact that as the UK has Type 45,Typhoon and now F35b some interesting scenarios might have been played out and practised – all not for public consumption of course.


You don’t need to throw a big fuck off missile at a ship to put it out of action for a bit. Similarly, you don’t need to fire a million rounds at a section to stop them. Countless times in recent history a round or two would stop a patrol in its tracks, making them think again. In effect, lobbing a few small missiles at a ship would be more than enough in most cases. We need to change our mindset here. Bugger all wrong with up arming the fleet with long range, small diameter missiles as opposed to some… Read more »


Agreed. A mission kill against a warship will often enough be sufficient, particularly with their technology dependencies these days.


I don’t disagree about warhead size it’s the range that’s the issue, 80 miles is too close to Attack a modern air warfare vessel at high altitude. SPEAR is not designed for this and should not be seen as an ASM.


It’s not 80 miles…more like 120 miles. SDB2 will get to 70 miles on glide only…add in a jet engine, halve the warhead size and you’ll get at least 50 miles more range.


the released stats say 80 miles but those are certainly short but also these figures are propably going to be for supersonic deployment at high altitude as well. As I said not an environment I would want to go into against a modern destroyer.


I’d doubt that Spear can be deployed at supersonic speeds. It won’t fly that fast, it will be subsonic, and they won’t be ejected so no separation trials from internal bays will be undertaken above m1.0.

Range to radar horizon for a destroyer is 30 miles…and launching platform from a reasonably low altitude will be long gone when the missiles crest the horizon and get detected.


Spear can be fired at low level this is how the RAF plan to use it on Typhoons against ground based air defences,32 spears launched from a flight of 4 F35 is going to hard to stop and will make a mess of anything they hit.

Nigel Collins

And coupled with the JSM, it would make this a very formidable package I would have thought?

All good news, so I hope we continue with Typhoons development in tandem with Tempest.

“Kongsberg plans to add its Joint Strike Missile to the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet’s weapons package”



I wonder who will pay for JSM integration on typhoon, if the weapon is available the UK should definitely purchase it both for external carriage on F35 and Typhoon.


““Kongsberg plans to add its Joint Strike Missile to the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet’s weapons package””

They also ‘plan’ to add it to P-8. But unless someone pays for it it isn’t happening…more correctly they’ve ‘proposed that someone pay for it to be integrated’…


That’s what I thought, modern missile integration cost a few hundred million.


Old story but a vital weapon for the RAF. Combined with CAPTOR E and F35 this should give the RAF a quantum leap in SEAD and EW capability which is something it’s been lacking for a long time. However the range in comparison to the similar US MALD System and offensive range of Russian S400 will make it difficult for a Typhoon to engage the latest air defence. However it’s probably a game changer being the only such weapon designed for internal storage on F35. SPEAR is probably the most important weapon designed by the UK for decades, thank god… Read more »


Martin, Slightly off topic. Apparently the Russians use the Pantsir to defend their S400 sites. But as the world has seen, the IDF have made taking out Pantsir platforms into an art-form. Now here is where it is going to get interesting. Turkey is currently supporting the GNA in Libya. (Google Live Maps Libya for the current situation) and Erdogan is currently in Algeria trying to find somebody who will allow him to base his F16s so as to be able to use air power to reverse the gains of the LNA. (he was rebuffed by Tunsia the other week)… Read more »


Don’t get hung up over the S400’s performance. It is a ground based radar guided missile system and suffers the same set of problems as all such systems do, namely the radar range to the horizon, masking from terrain, and the radar fourth power rule. It is also still a generation behind the T45s PAAMS and the new AEGIS Baseline 10. As the missiles are semi-active homing with radio command guidance. So, if you’re flying above 1000ft you’re fair game for the system, lower than this and you’d have a very good chance of evading it, hence the Pantsir. The… Read more »


Spear-EW range will match, or very likely significantly exceed MALD-J or N, which actually only has a range of 200 miles with EW package (Raytheon’s figures, its higher for other MALD variants). Here’s some working out I’ve done before… As ever with UK missiles and the MoD the actual ranges are closely guarded. But there have been ranges posited for Spear of over 100 miles, including over 120 miles. Which would make sense, as otherwise why bother with the additional complications and cost? After all a very similar SDB2 gets out to 70 miles without an engine, gliding only…The range… Read more »


That the main advantage of Spear 3 over SDB. The SDB can loiter but its area gets smaller with every passing second, as to fly forward it must lose height to generate speed to generate lift. The Spear 3 or Spear-EW with the engine can loiter over an area until the fuel runs out and it can still glide to the target if its in range. Plus with the engine it will get there much quicker than the SDB which after release will be slowing down due to air resistance.


Good to see we are rebuilding some kind of SEAD capability (albeit slowly), though I would prefer a weapons system that can seek out and destroy SAM sites like ALARM used to do.


I liked what ALARM could do as well, but it fell foul of a convention on mine warfare, which was brought forward in light of children and civilians in general being killed by unexploded smart munitions (weapons that had a loiter and/or self targetting mode) and mines in Bosnia, for example. These days the same effect is generated by munitions such as Brimstone that can be programmed to target specific objects e.g. radars and vehicles, as I understand it. Jamming in combination with SPEAR will provide a significant capability. The convention about banning certain types of weapons that I mention… Read more »



SPEAR is specifically designed to take out SAM sights, but it uses F35 or typhoons onboard sensors to track them instead of trying to ride a beam which can be switched off.


Spear should be a lot more effective though. If you can get a decent location on the radar from the aircraft sensors the MMW (with perhaps E/O as well) radar will target the SAM systems components far more effectively. Doesn’t matter if they shut down, the MMW doesn’t care and doesn’t lose accuracy with every passing second. You can also send a few and get command vehicles, missile carriers as well as the radar vehicles. Take out the whole system rather than just putting holes in radar transmitters.


One of the things that impresses me about MBDA is their willingness and ability to pull together different technologies to create new capabilities. IT is a cost effective and potentially pretty quick way to fill capability gaps. I am also impressed that the MoD has stuck with Brimstone / SPEAR giving the UK some unique capabilities (at least when Brimstone first entered service we had a real lead). Just goes to show that we can get it right sometimes. I hope that Dominic Cummings and his like would look at the successes as well as the disasters inorder to avoid… Read more »


As much credit needs to go to the MoD for the Complex Weapons programme as a whole which is really showing its worth. CAMM/Sea Ceptor is another great example, the work there could cross-pollinate with Brimstone and deliver some very interesting capabilities for land, sea and air uses.


Agree the UK has probably the best range of air launched weapons in the world now with meteor, brimstone, storm shadow, paveway IV and now
SPEAR. I’m sure the USAF would love to buy some of them but they are stuck with US political decision making.


One thing I would like to see us do is start mounting more of the systems MBDA have developed onto trucks to defend the UK and deployed ground forces. We are making a good start with Land Ceptor but we could put Brimstone / SPEAR 3 on to trucks and give the Army a serious standoff precious strike capability freeing up F35 to undertake deep strike missions if necessary. The Sea Viper system repackaged onto big trucks would give us a system equivalent to S-400 and should we decide the Ballistic Missile Defence is something we want to do we… Read more »


It already exist in the form of Mamba in French service for Aster and MBDA recently showed truck carried version of brimstone for Long range precision strike not to mention a sea version of brimestone as well.

Nigel Collins

Agreed with ChariotRider.

Aand as DaveyB mentions above, as I have done over the past year or so here on UKDJ, at some point within the next decade stealth will most probably be compromised so we will require even longer-range munitions to defend ourselves against any future adversary and capable of being launched from UAV’s to guarantee the survivability of our pilots.

The combination of Tempest-Loyal wingman with world-beating missiles from Companies like MBDA could very well be the answer?


Nigel, I have never said that the F35s days of stealth are numbered. I have said, the constant battle between radar and stealth will continue, with improvements being made to each in ongoing fight to counter each other. The RAM paint applied to the F35 will be updated in the next couple of years. The actual airframes stealthy design lends a lot to the overall RCS. But it’s the RAM that makes or breaks the aircraft’s radar stealth capabilities. There’s very little information on its composition. The older RAM had small ferrous balls suspended in the paint. This was the… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Point taken DaveyB.


The radar absorbent material is baked into the panels on F-35. It’s not paint. So there will be no ‘re-applying’.


As far as I’ve been told, the RAM comes as a paint, which is then baked on to the aircraft’s skin in a paint bay. This is the reason why I asked how this will be “touched up” when deployed or on a ship. This is especially pertinent when working off the carrier, as I can imagine the aircraft will have the odd bird strike, which may damage the RAM.


So basically a shorter range version of the US MALD that has been in service for a long time.


Nope its longer range. MALD A and B, the decoy only versions have a longer range. But MALD-J, the jamming version has a range of 200 miles according to the manufacturer. Spear is likely to go at least 240 miles, but probably more like 360 miles. There aren’t any figures on MALD-N, but its unlikely to be more than the J.

You also can’t quad pack MALD in an F-35 weapons bay…


Anti Radiation Missiles and jammers such as Spear EW used against warships are always an issue when mixed in with warhead rounds, especially if the flight profiles of the missiles look the same. you simply do not know what is inbound. The target needs its radar on to track the inbounds but those onboard the vessel know that leaving the radar on means something is going to jam you or home on jam. It makes the likelihood of the attacker getting a mission kill hit far greater. Take a T45 for instance. An ARM or a SPEAR EW in suicide… Read more »


That’s true, but that’s also one of the reasons for the T45’s S1850M, it should provide enough information for a missile engagement. However, Spear-EW uses a development of Britecloud’s DRFM (digital radio frequency memory) advanced jammer. DRFM is a game changer for electronic warfare, because it can instantly record a radar or radio transmission and then return it with some alterations in near real time. This makes it very good at spoofing or jamming radios and radars. For older pulse-doppler radars it can effectively blank your screen or produce so many false targets, you might as well quit and go… Read more »

BV Buster

“I’ll not go too deep on the subject, especially as I believe that Chinese lad is not who he says he is!!!”

I think the Chinese bit isn’t the big give away, it is the fact I have been 15 for the past 6 years while posting on here.



Bugger, fooled again….


problem is that a T45 with Aster 30 can take out an aircraft long before it gets in range to fire an ARM. Also radars like SAMPSON have the ability to use their beam to blind an incoming ARM.


It depends on the aircraft’s flight profile and if the ship is operating on its own. If the aircraft is flying a medium or high level profile, then it’s easy game for the Sampson/Sea Viper combination. If the aircraft approaches at very low level, hiding behind the horizon, then doing a pop up and down to acquire the ship. It can realise its weapons safely behind the horizon. This gives the ship literally seconds to acquire the threat and respond. Thankfully Sampson has a very low latency, so will acquire the threat very quickly. Also, Sea Viper will be accelerating… Read more »