SPEAR Capability 3

SPEAR Capability 3 is a 100 kg class weapon developed to be the primary air to ground armament for the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) from 2021

Selective Precision Effects at Range (SPEAR) Capability 3 is the name given to a Category A project (>£400m) to deliver a weapon;

A new 100 kg class weapon being developed to be the primary air to ground armament for the Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) from 2021; and optimised for internal carriage. SPEAR Cap 3 will provide the capability to destroy/defeat a wide range of targets at range, including mobile and relocatable targets, in all weathers, day and night, in all environments under tight rules of engagement.

Clearly, it is designed to work with the UK’s future F-35B fleet for attacks against integrated air defences using its increased stand-off distance to enhance the launch aircraft survivability. In other air interdiction missions against lesser capability air defences, it will be used to destroy the full gamut of likely targets on the ground and with some secondary capability against smaller targets at sea or in the littoral.

SPEAR Capability 3

SPEAR Capability 3 History

There has been a number of ‘feed in’ research programmes including the Sensor to Effect Phase 2 and Time Sensitive Target Test Bed that have developed the control and communication systems between the weapon and other platforms but the requirement emerged towards the end of 2009, although initial work had been completed at the turn of the century.

Increasing capabilities and proliferation of capable air-defence systems and ever more complex rules of engagement environments combined to produce to key drivers; the ability to be retargeted in flight and have the ability to stand off at a sufficient distance to enable integrated air defence systems to be attacked.

Later, this evolved to also include a specific launch platform, the F-35 Lightning II, 4 per bay.

Spear launcher

MBDA launched their concept for SPEAR Capability 3, called SPEAR, at Farnborough in 2012, describing it as both a step change and a mini cruise missile. This initial concept has since evolved, the location of control surfaces and body shape for example.

The SPEAR Capability 3 Assessment Phase also included Capability 2 block 2 and Sea Ceptor so when the National Audit Office report, the individual component costs are not clear.

The real issue with SPEAR Capability 3 at the time was that the MBDA version was not the only game in town. Raytheon has their Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment II or GBU-53. There is no doubt SDB-II has less capability, it is a glide only weapon and thus has a lower time to target (which enables the launch aircraft to ‘get the f**k out of dodge’ sooner) and longer range (greater stand-off distance).

The SDB-II has a tri-mode seeker (SAL, IR and MMW) and a larger warhead than SPEAR Cap 3.

This was the dilemma for the MoD, buy off the shelf or develop the MBDA system.

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Raytheon went on the public relations offensive and hinted that a UK SDB-II could be made at their UK manufacturing facility.

The F-35B is not scheduled to carry the SDB-II until 2022 as part of Block 4a software and recent news indicates some minor modifications (hydraulic line and bracket) to the bomb way will be required in order to allow the carriage of 4 per bay, these are planned to be incorporated into the production aircraft from 2019 onwards. Whether these plans come to fruition within the proposed timescale is open for discussion.

SPEAR Capability 3 has been reportedly proposed for Block 4 software on the F-35 programme.

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Initial flight development work was carried out on the Typhoon.

SPEAR Capability 3 Typhoon

In March 2016, it was reported that the MoD were going to extend the MBDA Assessment Phase work, thus effectively making its choice.

Main Gate decision on Demonstration and Manufacture phase was not planned until 2018 but several media outlets had reported in early May that MBDA were about to be awarded a £411 Million contract to develop SPEAR Cap 3.

On the 18th of May 2016, the MoD announced the next stage of development for SPEAR Capability 3

The Ministry of Defence has awarded a £411 million contract to develop a new missile for the UK’s future F-35B supersonic stealth aircraft.

The contract secures around 350 highly skilled 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. Spear 3 is from the same family of weapons as Brimstone, currently being used by the RAF to combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq, but it packs a bigger punch and has a significantly increased range.

The contract, with MBDA, will enable four years of critical design and development work which will tailor the weapon for use within the internal weapons bay of F-35B, the world’s most advanced combat aircraft. It is being designed specifically for F-35B Lightning II operations launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s two £3 billion aircraft carriers.

The £411 million contract award follows an initial £150 million assessment phase and, if successful, it is expected that Spear 3 will enter service in the mid-2020s

It was later announced that the first test firing had taken place in March 2016;

MBDA’s Spear missile, intended primarily for the UK’s F-35 fleet but also for Typhoon, has been fired for the first time. The trial was undertaken in March at the Aberporth range in the Irish Sea from a standard production Typhoon (aircraft BS116), flown by BAE Systems chief test pilot Steve Formoso. During the test, the missile righted itself from its inverted carriage position, deployed its wings, started its motor, made a number of maneuvers and flew to a predetermined point of impact.

Paul Wester, SPEAR Programme Director, explained the significance of the test firings;

This trial systematically demonstrated an advanced degree of maturity and technical progress that is unusual in an Assessment Phase. The trial had to achieve a variety of “firsts” for SPEAR including the safe separation from the jet, commencement of powered flight, the manoeuvre whereby it rolled and opened its wing in free flight, navigation and the final simulated precision attack. All those actions were a challenge with a new airframe that had never flown and we are building on this very successful foundation with the weapon development phase.

No news on Typhoon integration but several outlets have reported it is an aspiration and will hopefully use the new three round common launcher for a total of twelve carried munitions.

We’ve flown SPEAR on Typhoon, launched it, proved the separation, the propulsion, the guidance and the final phase. That gives us the potential to integrate SPEAR onto Typhoon as well. It was a trials fit on Typhoon, but there was nothing on there we wouldn’t foresee taking forward into a real fit. We would need to go through a more rigorous qualification and certification for a production run, but there are no show-stoppers in there that we can see now that we’ve done the trials fit.

So although SPEAR Cap 3 has been test fired from Typhoon, integration would require more detailed and demanding activity.

SPEAR Cap 3 Typhoon 1

Spear Capability 3 Capabilities

Perhaps the best way to describe SPEAR Cap 3 is either a longer range Brimstone or jet powered SDB-II.

The conceptual requirement emerged some time ago but was been given particular impetus by the proliferation of advanced Russian and Chinese air defence systems, especially the SA-21 and related systems.

Its key features include;

  • Internal turbojet with flush intakes and folding wings
  • F-35B internal or external carriage with 4 per bay when carried internally
  • External carriage on the Typhoon (although this does not seem to be in the current plan)
  • 140km plus range
  • Two-way datalink for re-tasking during flight
  • GPS/INS, Millimetric Radar and Semi-Active Laser (SAL) terminal guidance (final options to be confirmed)
  • Multi fuzing and tuneable warhead
  • MIL-STD 1760 and UAI interface compliance for F-35 and Typhoon integration

The turbojet propulsion is used to provide extended range, headwind resistance, survivability against air defence weapons and additional flexibility. It also provides a much shorter time to target than a glide weapon which improves survivability of the aircraft. With GPS and multi-mode guidance, together with the two data link, MBDA is going for absolutely maximum flexibility.

The turbojet used in the designs so far has been a version of the Whitney AeroPower (Hamilton Sundstrand) TJ-150 turbojet that is also used on the MALD and MALD-J systems.

TJ-150 Turbojet

MBDA have used parts of the ASRAAM airframe as a basis for SPEAR which has some echoes of the BAE Typhoon missile (not aircraft) proposed for the requirement what would eventually be fulfilled by Brimstone!

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The modular approach taken by Brimstone 2 and ASRAAM will be used on SPEAR, MBDA has claimed this would allow SPEAR to be modified to include a booster motor that would allow it to be used in the land attack and counter Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC) role. MBDA released a graphic a few years showing a concept for a Common Anti-Surface Modular Missile (CAsMM) that used the same launch cell as the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)

[tabs] [tab title=”SPEAR Image 1″] SPEAR Cap 3 Image 3
[/tab] [tab title=”SPEAR Image 2″] Spear infographies
[/tab] [tab title=”SPEAR Image 3″] SPEAR Capability 3
[/tab] [tab title=”SPEAR Image 4″] SPEAR mockup
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[/tab] [tab title=”VLS Launch”] Quad Packed SPEAR
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The vertical launch SPEAR CAP 3 remains an interesting option for land attack from RN vessels equipped with Sea Ceptor or Mk41 VLS.


Table of Contents

RN TLAM 4 Introduction
MBDA Brimstone layout on Tornado Brimstone
MBDA SPEAR 3 Image 2 SPEAR Capability 3
RAF Tornado GR4's at RAF Akrotiri Cyprus being armed with the Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb. Paveway IV
Tornado Storm Shadow Storm Shadow
Royal Navy Submarine HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA Tomahawk
FASGW(H) Missile Sea Venom
Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) Martlet (Lightweight Multirole Missile)
HMS Montrose fires Harpoon Harpoon
F-35 UK Weapons Trials November 2014 ASRAAM & PAVEWAY IV shot 2 ASRAAM
RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles Meteor BVRAAM
Soldier Mans Starstreak HVM High Velocity Missile System During Exercise Olympic Guardian for London 2012 Starstreak HVM
Sea Ceptor missile system FLAADS(M) Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)
Sea Viper HMS Defender Type 45 Live Fire Sea Viper/ASTER
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA. Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS)
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle Exactor (SPIKE NLOS)
Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin. 42 Commando Royal Marines were the first UK Armed Force to live fire the new Javelin system. The live fire demonstration was an early opportunity to see the Javelin being live fired in the UK. The future reliance on simulation,rather than live firing will mean that a demonstration such as this will be a rare event in the UK during the service life of the system. This image was submitted as part of the Peregrine 06 Photographic Competition. This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at www.defenceimages.mod.uk subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number 45145988.jpg ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photographer: PO (PHOT) Sean Clee Image 45145988.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)
NLAW Training Aid Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW)
Raytheon Defender Laser CIWS Lasers
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May 14, 2016 12:17 am

TD, so glad you’ve got around to writing this series and am absolutely loving it so far! Is that a typo t third pararagrapg be,ow the picture of the 4 missile launcher though where it says sdb3 is able t get out of dodge quicker ha Chad a longer range? Surely spear would be superior in both these cases, your first sentence does seem to indicate that’s what you meant to say…..

May 14, 2016 5:08 am

Hope SPEAR 3 comes on time and target or the F-35B for the UK will be not much

The Other Nick
The Other Nick
May 14, 2016 10:04 am

The SPEAR Cap 3 is specifically designed for the F-35B. It is hoped to be deployed in the early to mid 2020s, but the UK after the F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase no longer has the status of a Level 1 partner and as yet no agreement reached with the JSF Program Office for the integration of Meteor or SPEAR Cap 3, inclusion will become dependent on numbers of a/c ordered what priority it receives. A presentation by the JSF Program Office ‘Proposed Weapon Growth’ showed integration of SPEAR Cap 3 late in Block 4.3, so to achieve. 2025 IOC might be optimistic based on the software implementations history of the F-35,

The Block 4 weapons bay will have to be re-designed for all partner nations to accommodate new weapons including Meteor (with cropped fins) and SPEAR Cap 3, also the F-35B weapons bay is a harsh environment for weapons with temperatures over max. limit on landing, not sure if this has been fixed.

The SPEAR Cap 5 MBDA French/UK missile IOC 2030-35.

Some info. taken from Iain Barker, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl’s) weapons integration team, Royal Aeronautical Society’s (RAeS’s) ‘Delivering Capability: A Balance Between Weapon and Platform’ November 2015,

May 14, 2016 10:18 am

Is it really 4 per internal bay? Makes it 16 SPEAR 3 possible to wipe out a whole tank squadron then?

May 14, 2016 1:15 pm

@HMAFR, only 8 I think (4 each in 2 bays). Still a pretty useful load though, surely?

May 14, 2016 1:33 pm

The vertical launch version is fascinating: at the risk of attracting mirth and derision, any chance this and a CAMM or two could be shoehorned into something River-sized…?

May 14, 2016 2:37 pm

It is claimed camm is able to fit on a opv over 50m . With the rivers at 90m it should be possible but they would have to be designed to accommodate it. With 2 new rivers on order it would be sensible to design the spaces for camm even if it is not fitted thus allowing for easier potential upgrade . If spear 3 and camm can share the same vls launch system this would give the rivers a good step up in capability.
Radars and weapons personnel would have to be accomadated also.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 15, 2016 7:14 am

If you find yourself wanting missiles plonked all over the Rivers, you’d probably be better off building something other than the Rivers in the first place.

The UK doesn’t have a strategy requiring short-legged missile boats, and if it did, there is only a further two (unordered) Rivers planned.

The Other Nick
The Other Nick
May 15, 2016 10:44 am

Daily Mail reporting today that a £411 million MoD contract poised to be placed with MBDA for SPEAR Cap 3, will fund continuing development and be in production in four years. Will be in service with the F-35B in 2025.


May 15, 2016 1:31 pm

Don’t forget the 2 Meteor on the bay doors as well, all whilst retaining LO.

shark bait
May 16, 2016 6:51 pm

The exact same launcher as CAMM? Including cold launch?

That makes it sound much more exciting for a naval application

May 20, 2016 11:10 pm

Spear 3 being mooted with “antiship capability”.

How many spear 3 would it take to score one hit on a type 45?

How many spear 3 to disable a type 45?

How effective as an antiship missile would it be ?

shark bait
May 21, 2016 8:42 am

The jet engine and wings should allow it to fly a low path, couple that with speed and slow profile it should be reasonably survivable.

It’s biggest survivability features would be a salvo launch, using the same tactics brimstone uses to communicate between missiles and coordinate a saturation attack. 8 from a single F35 could stress defensive systems.

The warhead it small, so to have a real effect it would need to be smart with its terminal guidance and pick out the important bits. Think of a brimstone exploding inside the mast of a T45, it certainly wouldn’t sink the ship, but it would seriously reduce its ability to fight, and would leave the door wide open for further attacks if necessary.

Those tactics should be possible if it build upon the advanced systems inside the brimstone.

Against smaller craft it would certainly be effective, but with those targets it wouldn’t be making best use of the large range.

Ship launch for land and surface capability definitely need to be explored, especially if it can be launched from a CAMM cell.

May 21, 2016 10:35 am

I don’t see much about the warhead size. It’s described as bigger than Brimstone 2 and smaller than SDB-II but I couldn’t see any actual numbers (maybe I missed them?). In all the Brimstone / Spear cap 3 stuff the only number I saw was 6.2kg for the main warhead on legacy Brimstone.

I’d really like to understand how Spear cap 3 warhead is likely to compare with Brimstone 2. Can anyone give any pointers (even if it’s to stuff I missed in TD’s articles in which case apologies)?

shark bait
May 21, 2016 1:18 pm

Brimstone is 50kg with a 6kg warhead, spear is in the 80-100kg so can we expect the warhead to be 15kg?

Certainly not enough to sink a ship, but enough to disable it if placed correctly.

May 21, 2016 1:37 pm


> The warhead it small, so to have a real effect it would need to be smart with its terminal guidance and pick out the important bits. Think of a brimstone exploding inside the mast of a T45, it certainly wouldn’t sink the ship, but it would seriously reduce its ability to fight, and would leave the door wide open for further attacks if necessary.

Totally agree. If can hit the radar on escort such as T45/T26, the F36B parking on the deck of CV, or the bridge of LSD, it will be “critical”. The ship may survive, but will be “out of war” for at least days, and probably months. Since there will be only 2 T45s escorting CVTF (another one on Amphib TF), if a saturation attack by SPEAR3 was effective against 1 T45’s radar, all the CVTF shall be forced to retreat.

Another point. Because of this “criticality”, if not “lethality”, escort fleet need to shoot down “every” SPEAR3. A Typhoon can carry 12 of them. So, T45’s ASTER missile will be totally consumed with only 4 Typhoon attack.

Actually, you do not need ASTER to shoot down SPEAR3, it is very very expensive, highly agile, capable SAM. Here, I think CAMM is the right choice.

Then, I think adding 48 CAMM on T45 (24 at the wall of Sylver launcher, and 24 around the hangar), and make her missile 48 ASTER30 + 48 CAMM will be very nice…

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
May 22, 2016 3:17 am

Add a booster, daylight CCD camera and IIR (if possible – IIR, SALH and MMW all fit together into GBU-53) and you have an Exactor with >3x the range. The problem is it would presumably have to fly quite a high trajectory to maintain line of sight for its datalink (unless via a UAV, plane or satellite) and you would probably lose signal as it dived in to hit its target. That’s unless it went in on GPS/INS and a third party lased for it. Assuming what it was targeting was not in the missile’s threat library, DGPS alone is pretty accurate, but given it’s relatively tiny warhead, I’m not sure circa 3m CEP would be good enough in many instances.

September 28, 2016 8:11 pm

Helicopter launch from a Merlin perhaps?

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