BAE Systems and MBDA have received extra funding to complete the SPEAR air-to-surface missile and Meteor air-to-air missile integration on the UK and Italian F-35 fleets.

The award follows integration work started by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA in 2019 to upgrade the UK F-35 weapon systems.

SPEAR is an extended stand-off range weapon that features ‘network-enabled, high load-out, multi-effect capabilities’.

The missile can destroy mobile long-range air defence systems at over-the-horizon (OTH) ranges in all kinds of weather conditions and challenging scenarios.

Integration onto the UK F-35B Lightning II will enhance the country’s future combat air capability.

MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) is equipped with data link communication and an advanced active radar seeker.

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It will be integrated on both the F-35A and F-35B jets for the UK and Italy.

BAE Systems Air Sector US Programmes senior vice-president Tom Fillingham said: “Advanced weapons systems, such as Meteor and SPEAR, will provide the UK and Italian armed forces with an operational advantage.

“Our highly skilled engineers have a crucial role across the entire F-35 programme and as part of this integration activity, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside our partners as it progresses.”

BAE Systems, MBDA and Lockheed Martin’s engineering teams will now start testing, simulation and integration activities with an aim to reach initial operating capability of both weapons.

These activities will be conducted in the UK and the US.

MBDA Group Business Development director Paul Mead said: “We are delighted that work continues at pace to deliver Meteor and SPEAR capability to the F-35; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for all international customers across multiple variants of the aircraft.

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