As 2011 begins, the French DGA made France the 4th customer nation to place production orders for MBDA’s ramjet-powered Meteor missile, after Britain, Spain, and Sweden. The 200 missile order was placed through the multinational program lead, Britain’s MoD Defence Equipment & Services (DE&S), to MBDA-UK. Price was not mentioned. The first French Meteor missile deliveries are expected in 2018.
MBDA’s Meteor missile was conceived as a longer-range competitor to popular weapons like the Russian R77/AA-12, and American AIM-120 AMRAAM. Its ramjet propulsion is intended to offer the missile a head-on closing range of 120 km, with a 2-way datalink and full powered performance at Mach 4+ throughout its flight, instead of the standard “burn and coast” approach use by rocket-powered counterparts. The intent is to give the Meteor both longer reach, and a wider “no escape” profile.
These characteristics will make the missile a strong export contender in both the new fighter and legacy fleet upgrade markets. There have been reports that the Meteor may have a version designed for internal carriage in the F-35, but no confirmation. At present, the focus appears to be on initial partner orders, and entry into service.
France is ordering Meteors for their Rafale and Rafale-M fighters, and the 2018 target date for full integration would make them the last core nation. The Rafale will also be the only platform with a 1-way datalink, as Rafale uses the same transmit-only system for MICA and Meteor.
Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen is serving as the Meteor’s main test platform. The country has ordered Meteor missiles, and expects to be operational with a 2-way datalink by 2014. Britain and Spain have already ordered Meteor missiles for their Eurofighter Typhoon fleets, with a target date of 2015+ [DID: which slipped to 2017] for full operational capability using a 2-way datalink.
Partner nations Germany and Italy have yet to place their initial production orders, and MBDA refuses to release Meteor production totals so far.