The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a £411m contract to develop a new missile for the UK’s F-35B supersonic stealth aircraft.
The contract, with MBDA, will enable four years of critical design and development work to tailor the weapon for use in the F-35B. It will be designed specifically for F-35B Lightning II operations launched from the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carriers.
The contract secures around 350 missile engineering jobs across MBDA’s sites in Stevenage, Bristol and Lostock, with an equivalent number of jobs in the wider supply chain, and will draw on engineering and manufacturing expertise from companies across the UK, the MOD said.
Defence minister Philip Dunne said that the investment was good news not only for pilots, but for UK industry.
“It has been made possible by this government’s £178bn commitment to the very best equipment for our Armed Forces and by our growing Defence budget,” he said.
The Spear 3 missile uses a turbojet engine rather than a tradition rocket motor, giving it a range of more than 60 miles. It was successfully test fired from an MOD Typhoon in March at a range in West Wales.
The contract award follows an initial £150m assessment phase, and Spear 3 is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s if successful.