European missile manufacturer MBDA has received additional funding from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to accelerate the development of the SPEAR-EW stand-in jammer.

The SPEAR-EW variant is an electronic warfare effector intended to suppress enemy air defence during combat operations, instead of being utilised as a more traditional kinetic attack munition. According to MBDA the additional Rapid Design Phase funding “will accelerate SPEAR-EW’s development, maturing all its key sub-systems, and perform mission and planning evaluation”.

The weapon’s electronic warfare payload is being developed by Leonardo and utilises the company’s Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology. Operators will be able to use SPEAR-EW to jam enemy radar systems as well as deliver more subtle electronic warfare effects such as creating decoy targets to draw the attention of threat systems away from crewed aircraft or effectors.

SPEAR-EW utilises the same airframe as MBDA’s SPEAR miniature cruise missile being manufactured for the UK Royal Air Force. This commonality has reduced the development costs for SPEAR-EW and is also enabling a joint integration/launcher solution, reducing logistics burden and offering a high load-out potential.

Tip of the SPEAR: UK history

The missile was selected for the UK MoD’s Selected Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) capability 3 requirement for integration on to the UK’s next-generation, F-35B, supersonic, multi-role, stealth fighter aircraft. It can be carried in the F-35B’s internal weapons bay.

In 2016, MBDA secured a £411m ($594.5m) contract from the UK MoD for the development phase of the SPEAR missile, a follow-on from an initial £150m assessment phase contract to develop the system.

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The SPEAR air-to-ground precision strike weapon is designed to Mil Std 1760 military interface standard and is UAI-compliant. The stand-off weapon is capable of operating in autonomous fire-and-forget and semi-active laser designation modes.

It can also be deployed in fully network-enabled combat environment with in-flight retargeting capability.