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DSEI 2023: MBDA details CONOPS for Spear-EW stand-off jammer as MoD releases development funds

13th September 2023 - 14:30 GMT | by Leonid Nersisyan in London


The Spear-EW airborne electronic warfare system is intended for use on the F-35. (Photo: author)

Spear-EW, an airborne electronic warfare (EW) system under development by MBDA for use on the UK F-35 fleet, is set to receive additional funding for its rapid design phase from the MoD, the company has announced.

This investment by the MoD in MBDA's Spear-EW will expedite its development, improving its critical subsystems and allow for conducting mission and planning evaluations.

Dean Pask, Spear senior responsible owner at the MoD, emphasized the ministry's commitment to efficient development, saying: '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.'

Spear-EW is an airborne cruise missile, which carries an EW payload, by contrast with the baseline Spear, which is used as a platform for creating a new lightweight weapon with different functions.

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The EW payload of Spear-EW, integral to its capabilities, is being developed by Leonardo and incorporates its Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology. 

This has already demonstrated its effectiveness in trials and will provide sensing and electronic attack capabilities. Operators will be able to use Spear-EW for jamming enemy radar systems and implementing more nuanced EW tactics, including creating decoy targets to divert attention away from crewed aircraft or other assets.

According to representative of MBDA at DSEI 2023, Spear-EW carries its payload both in the nose of the missile (where the standard Spear would have the warhead) and in the folding wings. This is done to allow more frequencies to be jammed. 

The fuel tanks of the missile are longer compared to Spear, which at least doubles the combat range, an important factor for the SEAD/DEAD combat application, where Spear-EW can be used in combination with Spear missiles. 

Wave of Spear-EW could loiter around enemy air defence assets, both jamming them and provoking them to turn on their radars to gather intelligence on their locations, while the incoming second wave of Spear missiles will hit suppressed enemy targets. 

The main platform for Spear is going to be the F-35 fighter, which will be able to carry up to eight rounds of both types.

According to MBDA, the funding secured from the UK MoD is mostly going to be used for integration of the Spear-EW with the F-35. At present, it is planned to have the Spear cruise missile operational on the F-35B by 2026, while Spear-EW will be integrated later.

Shephard's DSEI 2023 coverage is sponsored by:

Leonid Nersisyan


Leonid Nersisyan

Leonid Nersisyan is a defence analyst and research fellow at APRI Armenia. He is a …

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