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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.

23 COMMENTS

  1. All good but when will it actually be in service the raf and navy need this missile now to be able to sink enemy ships.

    • I have my doubts it will sink a ship. Row boat maybe.

      The fact that they can fit 4 missiles in each bay of an F-35 (in the same space that a 1000lb GBU fits into), would tell you that the missile isn’t that big, likely about the size of a Hellfire or Brimstone, therefore doesn’t have the warhead to sink a ship.

      Will it do damage to a ship? Certainly, but other than a light patrol ship maybe, this think isn’t going to be sinking any frigates or destroyers.

  2. Yes, will be a handy missile to have in the inventory, couple of articles i have looked at said around the mid 2020’s (in-service date) perhaps somebody else has some extra info:

  3. The question is how much bang it will have. If you look at the helicopter launched torpedoes in the Iraq war and it took multiple of them to take down patrol boats. To be useful the spear3 would need to be able to take on a warship of a corvette or above level.

  4. Info re warhead is not in the public domain, at least that I could find, so I asked this question on another forum a while ago. The answer I got was that Brimstone is a 50kg missile with a 6kg warhead and Spear 3 is said to be in the 100kg range for total weight so that probably gives about a 15kg warhead. It’s not going to sink a frigate or probably even a corvette but, depending on what missiles you are talking about in the Iraq war (and I would be interested to know), if they were Hellfire sort of size or similar then Spear 3 should have about twice the bang compared to one of those and maybe a bit more. It’s also worth pointing out that Spear 3 is intended to be super-accurate so a non-sinking mission kill could be an option in some cases.

  5. There’s some talk of it being adapted for vertical launch. If it could be fired from a CAMM (Sea Ceptor) soft launcher that would add a very useful extra capability to T26 and probably also T31 if that ever happens, in fact to anything that ended up with CAMM launchers which might even include carriers and/or other bigger vessels if MoD were ever to go that route to boost the self-protection capabilities of some of our non-escort vessels. I’m quite excited about Spear 3 anyway and adding a CAMM VLS launch option would have me jumping for joy for the extra options it could give us.

    • @ Julian: You state ”There’s some talk of it being adapted for vertical launch” where exactly did you get this information from may I ask? The reason for my question is that this information is quite specific (i.e. known to MBDA engineers that would have worked on this concept only) and not in the public domain.

  6. I see that the new Israeli Corvette, Saar 6, based on the German K130 design is going to have the following weapon fit.

    40 barak 8 SAMs plus 40

  7. Let me continue 40 c dome missiles.

    How many spear 3 missiles would it take to knock out a Saar 6 corvette given the effectiveness of such air defence systems?

  8. While on the face of it a relative small missile evolved from an anti-tank weapon seems under-powered compared with the class of anti-ship missile:

    * Brimstone Sea Spear (assuming Spear 3 uses the same TSC warhead) – 16kg warhead
    * Sea Eagle (retired far too early) – 230kg warhead
    * Exocet – 165kg warhead
    * Harpoon – 221kg warhead

    However, in the same way that a Typhoon with a 500lb Paveway IV can be as effective as a Vulcan dropping 21 x 1,000lb iron bombs (on the bombing raids on the Falkland’s airfield, only 2 or 3 of 63 bombs dropped actually hit the target), a similar set of thinking is probably evolving with anti-ship missiles. If the guidance systems of the previous generation of missiles might be relied upon to hit the ship, but not be able to target specific parts, then you need a big warhead to ensure it is crippled, so a Sea Harrier, armed with 2 Sea Eagles could neutralise two ships. By comparison, a Lightning II, armed with 8 Spear-3, each missile being able to accurately target the bridge and radar mast can effectively neutralise four ships with much smaller warheads.

  9. The S-400 killer.

    1 Lightning…. 8 x Spears, 100km range…… the pride of the Russian missile defence is annihilated.

      • It would be a struggle against something with such a small RCS….

        Best guestimate I’ve seen would put the F-35 at 35km detection range…. by then it would be game over.

  10. So why is it important? Here’s why. The worst case scenario is a pressing need to sink a Kirov class battle cruiser. A Kirov carries 192 anti-aircraft missiles. 30 F35 sorties carrying 8 Spear 3 and the Kirov is non-functional. 8 x 30 = 240.

    • This makes a few assumptions.
      1. We have 30 F35s all maxed out with this weapons available and ready to launch or can be equipped fast enough once the Kirov is sighted

      2. The Kirov is acting alone and not in a battle group

      3. The Kirov is not able to shoot the F35’s out of the sky before they can launch.

      Saturation attacks are probably the best approach for taking down capital ships these days, but they do have their limitations, since the more missiles you carry, the smaller they have to be to fit in the room and so the smaller their range and the lower their punch.

  11. No – each F35 could make multiple sorties. The key thing would be to fire more spear 3s than the Kirov has defensive missiles. I’m assuming that a) the Kirov is able to shoot down every spear 3 that it has a SAM for, b) the Kirov is not resupplied with SAMs while at sea, c) no other type of anti-ship missile or aircraft causes the Kirov to expend ordinance and d) the Kirov is not escorted. The point is that saturation attacks using small, slow, cheap anti-ship missiles would likely be effective. That’s important to know. It’s also worth noting that the F35 would be an excellent platform for delivering the missiles.

  12. How many 100kg missile types do we need? Sea Venom, CAMM (surface mode), SPEAR 3. Why not just use a CAMM varient? One that goes mach 1 instead of mach 3 so uses less fuel* and can therefore have a bigger warhead say 30kg instead of 10kg. Then we would have an AAW and an ASuW missile body already integrated into both aircraft and VLS systems. The overall program cost would be less than having 3 missile types which all get under utillisied because we don’t integrate all of them into all our launching platforms.

    * I’ve tried to find out the fuel load of the CAMM and I can’t, but I estimate it to be about 40kg so reducing that to 20 and reducing the speed to mach 1 and perhaps adding some flip out wings should still give it a good range.

  13. I think these are more about reducing a ships ability to fight than actually sinking them.

    It would surely take an insanely large number of these to actually sink an large surface combatant.

    As valuable as they might be, I foresee a problem with damage evaluation. How do you know the degree to which you have disabled a FREMM Frigate (for example) if you have hit it 6 times but it is still sailing under it’s own steam? It becomes a strategic problem you have to assume the worst; that it is not out of the fight. The only way you can be sure the threat is neutralised is if it sinks.

    I think this weapon is valuable but the RAF and Navy desperately need an air launched Harpoon-like replacement for decisive hits on high value targets.

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