A team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA engineers are enhancing the capability of the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning aircraft by commencing work on the integration of next generation weapons.

BAE Systems has received an initial funding award from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, to start integration efforts for MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SPEAR precision surface attack missile.

Under this initial package of work BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin will also complete further integration work with MBDA on ASRAAM and with Raytheon on Paveway IV, initially integrated in support of delivering Initial Operating Capability for the UK.

Tom Fillingham, Senior Vice-President – US Programmes of BAE Systems, said:

“BAE Systems engineers played a crucial role in supporting the UK to achieve Initial Operating Capability for its F-35 fleet. Now, working alongside our partners including Lockheed Martin and MBDA, we are using our expertise to take that capability even further with advanced weapons systems such as Meteor and SPEAR.

We are extremely proud of the critical contribution UK engineers are playing for both the UK and the global F-35 fleet through the development, production and sustainment of the aircraft.”

Cliff Waldwyn, Head of Combat Air, Group Business Development of MBDA, said:

“This is a significant milestone for the UK Combat Air’s capability. This initial package of work officially commences the integration of Meteor and SPEAR and will enhance the operational capability of the UK’s Lightning Force in the future; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for international customers.

MBDA’s integration team have worked well with our BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin colleagues and we plan to build on this excellent foundation into the future on this follow-on modernisation work.”

Last year, a pilot from 17 Squadron, the RAF’s F-35 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California took to the skies for the first time with UK weapons, including ASRAAM and Paveway IV.

This followed work carried out during the F-35 programme’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) initial testing phase to develop and certify weapons capabilities by an integrated test team.

This team includes Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon and MBDA, working alongside the UK Air Warfare Centre to clear weapons for Operational Testing by RAF/RN pilots.

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Good news that we are finally getting here. The UK’s F35’s will be the best equipped aircraft in the world with best A2a and A2G capability.

John Clark

They certainly will be…
If we ever get to the point that we can deploy 36 aircraft from a QE class, with this sort of load out, then we would have a true first day of war capability.
We could knock down just about anyone’s front door and our Carrier strike will have finally reached maturity…

More excellent news.

Daniele Mandelli

Course we will.

In war, when more F35B can be flown out if necessary.

Otherwise 12 or 24.


Will this help address the anti ship capability gap much?


It’s just too bad that the UK will have so few F-35s that they will have to have US Marine F-35s deploy with them on the first operation cruise of the QE CVN.

David Steeper@yahoo.co.uk

Hopefully not for long.


That was always the plan though.
The USMC were asked to task with UK F35s to help integration, commonality and training on these new carriers.
The USMC have huge experience, and as such will help us get up to speed.
Once the UK have enough F35s they will be very capable and thus the USMC will go back to their carrier fleet.
I think its a fantastic opportunity to have such experienced carrier group pilots.


Hosting some USMC F-35B will allow us to start working up full-deck procedures in advance of having enough planes to do that on our own. That’s hugely valuable.

captain P Wash.

Yup, It Is “Hugely Valuable” But, When Will we actually have those Planes ? and more Importantly, When will we have enough to Embark Both Carriers ? Personally, and based on Current Procurement Plans, I doubt We will ever have “Surge Conditions” for more than one Carrier Any Time Soon. Unless we carry spare Stencils to cover the USMC Markings. Apart from that, I think We are Heading In the right Direction. (Unless the RAF want to use them too ). Anyone seen what we are replacing 200 odd Tornados with ????? Don’t tell me It’s the 100 odd Typhoons… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Captain. It is.

And the 35s.


I agree. I’d be amazed if we get to numbers of U.K. F-35B where we could surge both carriers at once, relieved if we get to the point where we could surge a single carrier, and not hugely surprised if we get to neither of those points. Still though, even if we only manage to get enough F-35B active to surge a single carrier if required that would still require crew that are trained for full-deck procedures. When we start out with only 12 F-35B embarked that is not sufficient to develop the skills for shuffling a full deck and… Read more »

Douglas Newell

I thought we only had 40 or 50 Tornados for the last 7 or 8 years anyway.

Paul T

Pretty much what I thought, Tornado numbers have been in decline for some time,I wonder exactly how many in Flyable Condition are left now, bearing in mind RTP etc.

captain P Wash.

None left now, @380 were Delivered, We now have 9 F35’s here and 8 in the US. plus the Typhoons of which @ 100 may be Operational.

So that’s @ 109 Aircraft or there abouts. I would believe the Slow order for the F35’s and the Retirement of the Tranche 1 Typhoons will keep these numbers Low.

It’s a Big old World out there.

captain P Wash.

Douglas, Yes, They have been In decline, I think we ended up with about 15 out of about 380? This was In addition to various other Aircraft that we have lost along the way.

captain P Wash.

RGR…… Mate, I love your SOH …. It makes me feel “Normal” Keep It up!

“Great Balls Of Fire”


What is this “nomal” you speak of Earthman?


Nope. Mav and Ice were Navy.


Which of the SPEAR capabilities 1 through 5 is this article talking about – obviously not 5 and presumably not 4 but all of 1,2 and 3? SPEAR 1 & 2 exist, SPEAR 3 close, SPEAR 4 pretty much inevitable, and SPEAR 5 who knows but in theory 2030-ish. I’m hoping this announcement is about, or includes, SPEAR 3.

captain P Wash.

Well, You lost me Completely there.


SPEAR capability 3

Annoyingly called Spear 🙂


I know. Even the MBDA web site seems to just call SPEAR cap 3 SPEAR. You’d have thought they would know better! Captain – technically the SPEAR program is a set of weapons. Spear cap 1 is Paveway, Spear Cap 2 is the Brimstone 2 update. Spear cap 3 is the new heavier longer range “Brimstone on steroids” missile being developed by MBDA. Spear cap 4 will be the mid-life update to Storm Shadow, now believed to be more minor that it was originally going to be, and Spear cap 5 will be SS replacement, e.g. something like the Perseus… Read more »

captain P Wash.

Thankyou Julian, i’m not too savvy when It comes to Missiles ( Or anything else, before someone says It !!!! ).

Daniele Mandelli

I thought this was SPEAR 3.

captain P Wash.

I have a Hammer4, not sure if it’s similar.

Mr Bell

We are going to need to hear something soon. In the next 12 months about how many more F35Bs the UK armed forces are getting. I would hope for another 48 aircraft for delivery 2023-2026, although I fear the RAF will get its way and we will only get a max of 24 more B versions and a batch of upto 36 As. RAF is desperate to undermine the sailing branch and undermine carrier strike. They want control over all flying and from their expensive, non moveable airfields. Airfields that can easily be targeted and destroyed by cruise missile strike,… Read more »

Steve R

I doubt they’ll split the order. That’d require OCU squadrons, one each for the A and B variants, and 2 pools of spare airframes. Reduces further the frontline airframes. I’d hope that the MoD, having been so concerned with reducing aircraft types to two over recent years – Tornado and Typhoon – to save money, would continue down this line and keep it all as the B variant. This alone would free up more airframes for frontline use. Unless we get a windfall somehow and more money is pumped into defence, leading to additional airframes in top of the 138… Read more »

Steve Taylor

I would hope that we only purchase B’s. Yes that would mean there would be a ‘gap’ in ‘capabilities’ but we have lots of ‘gaps’. We can’t buy B as a jack of all trades and then say it has shortcomings to the extent we need a slightly different variant of the same plane………..

Alan Reid

Hi Mister Bell ” ….. expensive, non moveable airfields. Airfields that can easily be targeted and destroyed by cruise missile strike … ” Hmmm, okay …… as opposed to expensive, aircraft carriers which can be targeted by missile strike from aircraft and submarines. All launch platforms have vulnerabilities. (It’s the submarine threat to the QE class that really scares me). In the last 30 years, we’ve successfully deployed our combat jets from airfields all over the world – we haven’t needed an aircraft-carrier to do so. The QE class and about 70 F-35Bs will be a great addition to our… Read more »


It’s worth noting when talking of surging aircraft and deck handeling that in 1982 89% of the sea harrier force was surged in just four days. RAF Pilots that had never landed on a ship in their life’s were able to get GR1’s on the deck. F35 is so good that it can even land itself on the deck with minimal pilot input. Based on those numbers ever with just 48 we could have one carrier fully equipped with three squadrons and also have a second CVF operating in the LPH role with 8 F35’s for close air support. F35’s… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Actually there would be room since a QE carrier can take up to 70 aircraft which would include a mix of F35B and helicopters. Whether it is necessary or desirable is another debate since it would necessitate deck loading for a lot of stealth aircraft whose stealth coatings might require significant increased maintenance.


It’s one thing to read that it’s planned to have the F35-B able to take Meteor (range over 100 km) which makes it a great interceptor, almost regardless of its ability in an a2a role, it’s quite another to see it’s actually happening. For me in peacetime, defence capability is more important for a carrier than offensive capability, which for a carrier sounds like a contradiction in terms!

Good news.


They’re not cheap, £2 million each from memory, but it will be vital sufficient of them are carried, and on replenishment ships too.


Will the ASRAAM be integrated with the F-35B as well? Will they be mounted in the weapon’s bay or from wing pylons? Will all of them be cleared to be launched from wing pylons as well?

How about the GAU-22/A gun pod? Will the RAF/FAA F-35Bs be using them?

Lots of questions. Hoping for lots of answers.


ASRAAM already on as part of block III IOC. They can be held internally and the UK also developed a special LO wing tip mounting for it.

The RAF’s aircraft can mount the gun pod but to my knowledge we have not bought any yet.

David Lindley

Thought the point of the Harrier was that it could be dispersed away from damaged or potentially targeted airfields at home or operated from forward bases overseas. F35b is modern Harrier so why is it just talked of as a carrier aircraft?


Agree about the gun pod and as usual think we have missed a big trick here, our F35’s are by design bog standard and identical in every way to the USMC’s ‘B’s which have them, but to date we haven’t bought the gun. One of the big criticisms of our Harrier GR9’s in Afghan was that they didn’t have a gun whereas the USMC Harrier AV8B’s did and there was a lot of negative comment on ARRSE, which was negated when we deployed Tornado which with its Mauser 27mm had the capability and was put to very good use. The… Read more »