MBDA has reported the first live firing of an Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) from an F-35B Lightning II. MBDA is currently under contract, awarded in 2016, to integrate the air-to-air missile for the UKs F-35B fleet.
The trials were conducted by the integrated test teams at NAS Patuxent River and Edwards AFB. This effort is reportedly currently progressing to plan and these integration activities will allow the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the aircraft in the UK.
Initial weapons planned for the UK F-35Bs at IOC at the end of 2018 consist of the Raytheon AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM, ASRAAM and the Raytheon Paveway IV. MBDA is developing an F-35-optimized version of its Meteor BVRAAM and predicts strong international interest for this capability on the Lightning II.
A direct-fire weapon is also under evaluation. A powered version of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) is being offered by Raytheon Missile Systems to meet the UK’s Selective Precision Effects At Range 3 (Spear Cap 3) requirement. In addition, MBDA is working on a turbojet-powered, winged Spear, with a range thought to be around 70nm, while the SDB II is a glide bomb with a 40nm range. A decision on this is not expected until 2018 on current plans.
At present, there are no plans to deploy Spear Cap 3 on the Typhoon, but the type is slated to be used as a test platform to trial the MBDA-designed solution in support of the planned Lightning II requirement. The MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile and Brimstone 2 (also known as Spear Cap 2) could also join Spear Cap 3 on the F-35.