Royal Navy: Carriers’ F-35 jets to get next-gen lethal missiles

Strike fighters flying from Royal Navy aircraft carriers will be armed with the next-generation of lethal missiles following the latest £550 million deal.

The UK Ministry of Defence (UK MOD) has awarded the deal to MBDA for the production of the SPEAR missile system. SPEAR, known in UK service as SPEAR3, is a network-enabled miniature cruise missile.

An artist’s impression of SPEAR3 missile in flight. Photo: Royal Navy

It will become the principal strike weapon of the F-35 Lightning jets operating from the decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

Designed to knock out warships, tanks and armoured vehicles, missile launchers, bunkers, radar posts and air defence batteries, the new missile can be fired at such long range – more than 140 kilometres – it should keep the Royal Navy and RAF pilots out of harm’s way from enemy ground defences, the navy said.

The weapon has been developed over the past decade and will be introduced to the front line over the next seven years, according to the navy.

Weighing under 90kg and just 1.8 metres long, SPEAR3 – Select Precision Effects At Range missile No.3 – is powered at high subsonic speeds by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, day or night, and strike at moving and stationary targets.

Testing, simulation and trials will include controlled firings from a Typhoon aircraft before the missile is delivered to Marham and the Portsmouth-based carriers for front-line operations.

Photo: An artist's impression of SPEAR3 missile in flight. Photo: Royal Navy