MBDA has received additional funding from the UK Ministry of Defence to accelerate the development of the Select Precision Effects At Range Electronic Warfare (SPEAR-EW) stand-in jammer. The additional Rapid Design Phase funding will accelerate SPEAR-EW’s development, maturing all its key sub-systems, and perform mission and planning evaluation. The weapon’s electronic warfare payload is being developed by Leonardo and utilises the company’s Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology. This technology is mature, was proven effective in trials and will deliver the advanced sensing and electronic attack capabilities of SPEAR-EW. Operators will be able to use SPEAR-EW to jam enemy radar systems as well as deliver more subtle electronic warfare effects such as creating decoy targets to draw the attention of threat systems away from crewed aircraft or effectors.
Dean Pask, Spear Senior Responsible Owner at the MoD, said: “By embracing collaborative partnering, agile methods, and strategic technology, we are steadfastly dedicated to ensuring that our front line commands receive critical capabilities in the most effective and efficient manner possible”.
Iain Bancroft, SVP Electronic Warfare at Leonardo UK, said: “SPEAR-EW will incorporate a world-class electronic warfare payload, designed and manufactured here in Luton, UK. Based on our experience providing on-board jamming capabilities for the Eurofighter Typhoon and, more recently, off-board jamming in the form of our BriteCloud expendable active decoy, our technology can reliably beat current threats while remaining adaptable for the threats of the future”.
Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, said: “SPEAR-EW will be a true game-changer for the suppression and defeat of enemy air defences. As we have seen lately, air defence networks are exceptionally hard to operate against with today’s toolkit: SPEAR-EW is the key that will enable allied air forces to unlock this challenge and gain air superiority”.
SPEAR-EW utilises the same airframe as MBDA’s SPEAR miniature cruise missile being manufactured for the Royal Air Force. The Select Precision Effects At Range Capability 3 (SPEAR 3) is a future British air-to-ground and possibly anti-ship cruise missile that could also be considered a loitering munition. This commonality has reduced the development costs for SPEAR-EW and is also enabling a joint integration/launcher solution, reducing logistics burden and offering a high load-out potential. It is currently planned to be integrated on the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-35B Lightning and possibly Tempest. SPEAR 3 had been planned to be operational in 2025. However, in November 2021, Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin told the House of Commons Select Defence Committee that full operating capability for SPEAR-3 on F-35 might not occur until 2028.
SPEAR-EW is a new development which will carry out Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) missions. Utilising a next-gen miniature Electronic Warfare payload provides both stand-in jammer and decoy capabilities. This is a significant force multiplier in the complex A2AD threat environment. SPEAR-EW builds on the success of the SPEAR Development programme, taking the mature weapons design and replacing the warhead and seeker with an increased fuel load and modular EW payload. These elements deliver an enhanced loitering and broad EW effect across the threat spectrum. SPEAR-EW is delivered utilising the same electrical and physical interfaces, from across the SPEAR family of weapons, reducing both Platform Integration and Through Life Costs. SPEAR-EW will utilise the SPEAR family launcher system allowing four units to be carried in a single bay of the F-35. A 3-pack SPEAR family launcher is under developement for other platforms, such as Eurofighter Typhoon and Gripen.