MBDA (UK) Ltd has been awarded a £300m contract to develop the next variant of their AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) missile used by RAF Typhoon and Tornado fast-jets as well as arming the F-35B Lightning II when it enters service with the RAF and Royal Navy. As well as improving performance with the replacement of older sub-systems the new variant will make it easier to upgrade the weapon as and when is necessary speeding up the ability to meet new threats.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon emphasized that the eight-year contract will directly sustain around 200 highly skilled technology jobs across MBDA sites in Bristol, Stevenage, Hertfordshire and Lostock, Lancashire with around another 200 supported in wider industry. This was no doubt an effort to appease recent criticism of the Conservative Party’s pre-election pledge to award more defence contracts to UK based companies following the revelation that 40% of the work for the Army’s new Scout IFV will go to American companies.
The ASRAAM replaced the venerable AIM-9L Sidewinder in the RAF as the main close-in dogfight missile entering service in 1998. The missile is capable of being targeted on to an enemy aircraft with a sight mounted on the pilot’s helmet and with its off-boresight performance it means that rather than turning to get on to an enemy plane’s tail all the pilot has to do is look at the target and press FIRE. Guidance is by an infra-red seeker and the missile has a head-on range of nearly 15 miles.