Graphic shows the Spear 3 mini-cruise missle.
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MILITARY

UK F-35s to deploy Spear 3 missiles

By Duncan Mil

January 12, 2021 - Britain’s Royal Navy will equip its F-35B Lightning stealth jets operating from the decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales with next-generation Spear 3 mini-cruise missiles.

In a recent €610 million (£550 million) deal with European weapons-maker MBDA, Spear 3 will become the F-35B’s principal strike weapon. The missile can knock out warships, tanks and armoured vehicles, missile launchers, bunkers, radar posts and air defence batteries.

Powered by a Pratt & Whitney TJ-150 turbojet, the missile flies at high subsonic speeds with a range of more than 140 kilometres.

The Spear 3 incorporates a multi-mode sensor seeker with millimetre wave (MMW) and Semi-Active Laser (SAL) or targeting flexibility. The seeker captures images at near optical wavelengths (94Ghz) producing high-resolution images for the system’s target recognition algorithms to evaluate.

The SAL seeker allows a special forces Forward Air Controller to “paint” a target for the missile using a laser. The seeker locks on to the laser’s reflected energy and flies itself to the target. The MMW seeker enables “fire and forget” missions.

A multi-effects warhead can be reprogrammed during flight and can produce a shaped-charge effect against armour, fragmentation effects against “soft” vehicles, or penetrate hardened structures and bunkers.

Spear 3 will become the principal strike weapon of the F-35Bs based on the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group when it enters service in the mid-2020s.

PUBLISHED: 12/01/2021; STORY: Graphic News
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