The F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jet is slotted to be compatible with two new powerful munitions by the end of the decade.
Lockheed Martin is working with partner militaries to incorporate the Meteor air-to-air missile and SPEAR 3 air-launched cruise missile into the F-35.
Meteor and SPEAR for the F-35
F-35 pilots will be able to incorporate the Meteor and SPEAR munitions in their loadout in the near future.
“The U.K. Lightning Force currently operates the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), and the Paveway IV precision-guided bomb. By the end of the decade, both Meteor and SPEAR 3 will also be integrated to U.K. F-35s,” James Cartlidge, Minister of State for Defense, stated in response to a written question.
The Meteor is an advanced beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by MBDA. Weighing about 400 lbs, the Meteor has a range of more than 60 miles. The munition has one of the largest no-escape zones out there, meaning that an enemy aircraft will have a pretty hard time evading an incoming Meteor that is flying at more than 3,000 miles per hour. The Meteor is similar to the U.S.-made AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).
The SPEAR 3 is an air-launched precision-guided standoff cruise missile. The munition has a maximum range of close to 90 miles and is designed to take out high-value targets, such as command and control centers, air defense systems, or logistical nodes, on land or sea. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of such munitions. The Ukrainian military has used the Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG air-launched cruise missiles with great success against Russian high-value targets.
As more European countries enter the F-35 Program (right now, 11 of the 18 participants come from Europe), it makes sense for Lockheed Martin to incorporate European-made munitions into the F-35.
The F-35 Lighting II
The most advanced fighter jet in history, the F-35 Lighting II is a multi-role 5th generation fighter jet. The aircraft comes in three versions: The F-35A is the conventional take-off iteration; the F-35B is the Short Take-off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) version and it can take off and land like a helicopter; finally, the F-35C is the carrier iteration of the fighter jet designed to operate from aircraft carriers.
All three versions have similar capabilities and systems with some minor performance differences resulting from the structural peculiarities of each aircraft. For example, the F-35C has a much more robust landing gear system to withstand the extreme forces of carrier operations. Moreover, it can pack more fuel to enable over-the-water operations.
All three versions of the F-35 Lighting II can conduct competently the following mission sets: Strategic Attack, Air Superiority, Close Air Support, Electronic Warfare, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and Destruction Enemy Air Defense (DEAD).
The stealth fighter jet is immensely popular with air forces around the world. As of February, there are 18 countries participating in the F-35 program, with more in the queue.
About the Author
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].
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