A live firing of MBDA’s Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) from a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning-II fighter has taken place; marking the first time a non-US made weapon has been dropped from the type.
The infrared-guided ASRAAM is being certified for use on the fighter in line with the UK’s acquisition of the weapon for use on its F-35Bs, and “more than one” firing has taken place to date, Dave Armstrong, managing director of MBDA UK, told media in London on 15th March: “We are pleased to announced that (the) ASRAAM has been fired (from) the F-35 for the first time,” Mr. Armstrong said. “We’ve carried out more than one [firing] and the results so far have been great.”
Testing is being carried out at the US Navy’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River base in Maryland and Edwards airbase in California, and so far, flight trials and air-launched firings have taken place, although Mr. Armstrong noted that only limited information on the trials could be revealed at this point.
MBDA and the UK’s F-35 weapons integration prime contractor BAE Systems delivered the first batch of ASRAAMs to the US to support the testing in January 2016, in preparation for these trials. At the time the companies said that the trials would include environmental data gathering, safe separation demonstrations, weapons integration and the firing trials.
The ASRAAM is in service with the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Panavia Tornado-GR4/A and Eurofighter Typhoon-F/GR4 fighters, and the service is keen to have commonality across its weapons stores.
In August 2016, MBDA was awarded a $227.9 million contract to deliver a new variant of the ASRAAM for use on the F-35B, which included a new seeker developed by MBDA. This added to a September 2015 Capability Sustainment Programme award from the UK Ministry of Defence that contracted the company to develop the advanced version of the weapon for use on the Typhoon-FGR4, which is due to enter service on this aircraft in 201
While the F-35B will also receive the advanced version, the standard version of ASRAAM will be used on the aircraft when it first enters land-based service in December 2018. The enhanced version can then be introduced onto the type in 2022, when software enhancements are made to the aircraft to allow for the integration: ASRAAM integration is one of the milestones that needs to be achieved in order for the F-35 to achieve initial operational capability with the UK, MBDA says.