MBDA has secured a £184m contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to supply advanced short-range air-to-air missiles (ASRAAMs) for the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft.

Under the contract, MBDA will manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the ASRAAM, which is currently in service with Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon and Tornado aircraft.

The RAF and Royal Navy F-35 combat jets will be outfitted with an updated version of the weapon by 2022.

Additionally, the RAF Typhoon aircraft will begin using the updated missile variant from 2018.

UK MoD Defence Equipment and Support organisation CEO Tony Douglas said: “ASRAAM will provide vital offensive and defensive options for UK F-35 pilots against a wide range of air-to-air threats.

“The project to update the weapon and integrate it with the F-35, the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, provides a clear example of the MoD and UK industry working effectively together to provide our UK Armed Forces with the best equipment possible.”

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The integration of the new missile onto the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract.

"ASRAAM will provide vital offensive and defensive options for UK F-35 pilots against a wide range of air-to-air threats."

The advanced heat-seeking weapon will be manufactured at MBDA’s new, £40m facility that is nearing completion in the Logistic North commercial development in Bolton.

It has the ability to engage hostile air targets ranging in size from large multi-engined aircraft to small drones.

The UK Government is currently investing in new aircraft carriers, submarines, warships and patrol vessels.

Image: F-35B Lightning II in flight. Photo: courtesy of Crown Copyright.