Meteor is a next generation, active radar-guided, beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) system. The missile is being developed by MBDA Systems for six European nations. Meteor will offer a multi-shot capability against long range manoeuvring targets in a heavy electronic countermeasures (ECM) environment with range in excess of 100 kilometres (62 mi). It is designed for a speed greater than Mach 4. The missile has a large no escape zone. The Meteor BVRAAM can be integrated on Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale aircraft. The Meteor missile can also be installed on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The missile, being designed as a complete unit, requires no assembly and maintenance immediately before loading. This arrangement reduces its overall life logistic support cost. Meteor can be launched as a stealth missile. It is equipped with enhanced kinematics features. It is capable of striking different types of targets simultaneously in almost any weather. The Meteor has a length of 3.65m and diameter of 0.178m. It is designed to be compatible with AIM-120 type rail and eject launcher systems.
The Meteor is equipped with a two way datalink, which allows the launch platform to provide updates on targets or re-targeting when the missile is in flight. The datalink is capable of transmitting information such as kinematic status. It also notifies target acquisition by the seeker. The Meteor is installed with an active radar target seeker, offering high reliability in detection, tracking and classification of targets. The missile also integrates inertial measurement system (IMS) supplied by Litef.
In December 2002 full-scale development and production of Meteor was begun. The £1,200 million fixed-price contract only covered production for the RAF – no other nation had signed up at that time. The percentage share of the programme allocated to each partner nation has changed several times over the years. Germany’s decision to reduce its intended acquisition resulted in the UK taking 5% of the programme from Germany, giving the UK 39.6% and Germany 16%. France is funding 12.4%, Italy 12%, and Sweden and Spain 10% each.
The prime-contractor, MBDA, will manage and execute the programme through its operating companies in France, Italy, and the UK, working with Bayern-Chemie/Protac in Germany, Inmize Sistemas SL in Spain, and Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden. It is estimated that over 250 companies across Europe will be involved. Work will be allocated by MBDA to its risk-sharing partners on an “earned value basis” under which work is placed according to best commercial value, taking into account technical excellence, but with a view to aligning “broadly” with the share of development funding provided by each nation. The programme will initially create and sustain 2500 jobs across Europe, 1200 in the UK, but successful exports could double these figures.
The development programme will make large use of computer simulation and so should require a relatively small number of firings, some of which will cover activities more traditionally associated with aircraft-integration trials. The first firing, from Gripen, was expected in 2005 with an in service date of August 2012. In December 2009 the Spanish government authorized the procurement of 100 Meteor missiles and their corresponding support equipment. In September 2010 the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, signed a production order contract with the MoD for the Meteor missile; the system is expected to be operational with the Swedish Air Force in 2015. In May 2015, Qatar ordered 160 Meteor missiles to equip the Dassault Rafales of the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Egypt also bought a large batch of those missiles in the framework of the Rafale.