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UK awards MBDA £400 million contract for new Brimstone missiles

The United Kingdom has awarded MBDA a £400 million contract for production of Brimstone air-to-surface missiles that will extend its service life beyond 2030, an MBDA press release said.

Under the “capability sustainment programme,” MBDA will manufacture new Brimstone missiles for the U.K. Armed Forces to “replenish the country’s inventory and to maintain the U.K.’s battlefield edge into the future,” the Tuesday, March 27 release said.

The programme will also see the missile integrated on Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.

Brimstone is an air-launched ground-attack missile developed by MBDA for the RAF, specifically to target enemy armor. The Brimstone launcher carries three missiles in a single weapon station.

The weapon uses a tandem shaped-charge warhead, making it more effective against modern tanks than similar weapons like the AGM-65G Maverick. The warhead uses a smaller initial charge to initiate reactive armor, followed by a larger charge designed to penetrate the base armor.

Brimstone is used by the U.K.’s Tornado squadrons in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Shader and has also been used on operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

The new-build missiles will incorporate upgrades to Brimstone that have taken place over recent years, including, enhanced autopilot, the Dual Mode SAL/millimetric wave (mmW) seeker, and the insensitive munition-compliant rocket motor and warhead.

The CSP will also include a memory and processing update “to enable all of Brimstone’s functionalities and to future-proof the missile,” the release said. This will allow the hardware to evolve through software updates, resulting in a stockpile of identical missiles, and will enable Brimstone to meet export orders.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is the only export customer, but in December Qatar signed a £6 billion contract with the U.K. for 24 Typhoon jets, plus Brimstone and Meteor missiles and Paveway IV bombs. The United States, France and India have expressed interest in the missile. India is interested in integrating Brimstone on their Sukhoi Su-30MKI fleet, while France is reportedly considering Brimstone for its Tiger attack helicopters.

“The CSP contract forms the basis for the through-life sustainment and upgrade of Brimstone to 2030 and beyond,” said Chris Allam, MBDA Group Engineering Director and Managing Director of MBDA UK.

The MBDA release said the Brimstone missile will be carried by RAF Typhoon aircraft, and is expected to be used by British Army Apache attack helicopters and integrated on the RAF’s new Protector medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs that are replacing MQ-9 Reaper drones. The Protector is a Reaper variant.

In November a series of live firings of Brimstone from a Eurofighter Typhoon were completed successfully, BAE Systems said. Further flight trials will take place in early 2018, and evaluation of Brimstone by the RAF is planned for mid-2018, BAE said at the time. MBDA is jointly owned by BAE Systems, Airbus and Leonardo.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence said the variant will replace all earlier variants in 2022 and will arm Typhoon when it takes over from the Tornado as the RAF’s primary ground-attack aircraft in 2019.

Brimstone will not be integrated on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

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