The ‘Select Precision Effects At Range Capability 3’ (SPEAR 3) is an air-to-ground, anti-tank, anti-structure and anti-ship missile.
SPEAR Cap 3 is characterised by the MoD as a capability “focused on the enduring requirement to engage mobile and fixed targets in hostile and complex environments”.
The missile takes the shape of a medium-range (around 120km), mini-cruise missile designed for internal carriage by the F-35.
According to MBDA, the system is effective against:
• Air Defence Units, Ballistic Missile launchers
• Defended structures
• Fast moving and manoeuvring vehicles
• Main Battle Tanks, Self-Propelled Guns, Armoured Personnel Carriers
• Naval vessels
The design of SPEAR 3 takes into account the characteristics and internal weapon constraints of the F-35B, four missiles can be accommodated in each of the F-35Bs two internal weapon bays, making for a total of 8 missiles per aircraft.
Mid-course guidance will be performed using GPS or inertial navigation utilising a two-way datalink, this enables mid-course updates, re-targeting and mission abort functions.
The UK is looking to integrate SPEAR 3 as part of Block 4 software integration on the F-35. In May last year, the MoD awarded a £411 million contract to MBDA to that effect.
In March 2016, a SPEAR trials missile was launched from a Typhoon trial aircraft operated by BAE Systems at the QinetiQ Aberporth range in Wales.
The missile transitioned through separation from the Typhoon aircraft to powered flight before completing a series of manoeuvres, ending in a terminal dive to the desired point of impact. According to reports, the missile accurately followed the planned trajectory and was well within simulation predictions; all trial objectives were achieved.