Monday, 25 March 2013

Missile Monday! The MBDA Meteor

The MBDA Meteor BVR missile.
A modern fighter jet is only as good as the missiles it carries.  Radar and other detection equipment continually improves through the years, and guidance systems become increasingly effective.  Modern missile technology will likely continue to advance in leaps and bounds as UAV technology continues to take off.

As missile technology improves, so do countermeasures.  Chaff, jamming, even stealth all serve to reduce the effectiveness of enemy missiles.  As countermeasures improve, counter-counter measures need to be developed to regain missile effectiveness, and the cycle continues.

One thing that has stayed true for air-to-air missiles is their propulsion.  For the most part, air-to-air missiles have been simple metal tubes with a guidance system up front, warhead in the middle, and a rocket engine in the back propelling the missile to its target.

Until now.

The MBDA Meteor BVRAAM (beyond visual range air-to-air missile) promises to improve on the current NATO standard air-to-air missile, the AIM-120 AMRAAM (advanced medium range air-to-air missile), by eschewing the traditional rocket motor in favor of a ramjet.

Traditional air-to-air missiles launch towards their target at a high rate of speed, using up all of their fuel in a continuous burn, then coast to the target.  Any maneuvering done reduce the total energy of missile, thus making it easier for the target to avoid.  The Meteor does not share this limitation, however.  It's ramjet is capable of reducing or increasing its thrust in order to alter its speed and range.  Instead of coasting, it simply alters its fuel burn rate to achieve the optimum speed and range, ideally running out of fuel at the exact moment it hits its target.

Put simply, while traditional air-to-air missile becomes less effective the further away the target is, the Meteor maintains most of its effectiveness.

The Meteor also uses a 2-way datalink allowing it to share targeting information with the fighter that fired it.  That gives it extra accuracy and reduces the effect of jamming or stealth.

A MBDA Meteor mounted on a Saab Gripen.
Development on the Meteor is complete, and it is operational on both the Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon.  The Dassault Rafale is also cleared, but will only have a one-way datalink.  The Meteor should work on the Super Hornet, but there has been little or testing done to this point.

What about the F-35?  Originally, the F-35 was supposed to work with the Meteor, but the Meteor does not fit properly in the F-35's internal air-to-air missile racks.  A "clipped" version of the Meteor was proposed to rectify this issue, but funding has been cut.  It will fit in the internal air-to-ground and external stations, but this comes at the cost of affecting ground attack ability or stealth.  In any case, testing has yet to occur.

Oddly enough, the Meteor does not fit in the AMRAAM sized weapons bays of the F-22.  The F-22 is also incapable of operating other state of the art missiles such as the high offset boresight (HOBS) AIM-9X and IRIS-T heat seekers.  That's right, the most technologically advanced warfighter of the modern age is incompatible with today's most advanced missiles.  So far, anyway.


  1. "The F-22 is also incapable of operating other state of the art missiles such as the high offset boresight (HOBS) AIM-9X and IRIS-T heat seekers."

    True, and the F-22 doesn't have a two-way data link compatible with such a missile and it doesn't have a helmet mounted display, which lets you target an enemy aircraft by merely looking at it - this is important in a turning fight. So the US is now trying to bring the F-22 up to date:

    With a modern ASEA radar, a good IRST and long range missile the Gripen can perform well in beyond visual range air-to-air combat.

  2. Yeah!
    Meteor will provide to the Euro birds an unprecedented edge against US and Russian products in terms of BVR combat.

  3. Doug, I'd really advice you fixing the "How the fighters stack up" pages. Presently the one the quicklink leads to, & wich most visitors are most likely to go to, has the most faults.
    Btw, in the presentation of Gripen E made by SAAB the other week, it is mentioned that the fuel capacity is now at almost 150% of the Gripen C, metioned in a way that it's VERY close. While the increase in range this will result in can't be stated as hard fact yet, one can be pretty sure that the old range figures will increase, say perhaps around 10%. Or that fuel could ofcourse be used for more supersonic travel for exemple.. long range supercruise should be a nice advantage in a large contry, don't you think?..

    1. The information was the most accurate I could find.

      The quick link version has been modified to reflect several changes already, but I want to keep it as accurate as possible. If you notice any specific inaccuracies, please let me know which ones need fixing as well as a source to verify.

      Could you direct me to this most recent presentation you speak of? The most recent one I have seen is the Farnborough 2012 version.

    2. Doug, what I refer to is that you have 2 different versions on your blog page, the "historical" one, which has most comments, & the "quick link" one. The "historical" one is faily updated, the "quick link" one isn't. Does that clarify what I'm referring to?

      The presentation of Gripen E I'm referring to is made in Swedish, which might complicate understanding, however, the slides are in English..

    3. Thanks for the link. It was interesting, but there really isn't much new in it, unfortunately.

      As far as the comparison tables, the "historical one" has not been updated since I first put it up, as I simply don't want to keep updating two separate posts. I will give it one last update and then add a note to this effect.

      The Gripen's range figures comes from Saab's own material, it can be seen here:

      Notice it does stipulate external tanks. Further digging revealed that this was with the 290gallon centerline tank.

      It must also be added that while a pre-production model of the Gripen F has been made, there has yet to be a production model of the Gripen E. Until then, all numbers are subject to change, but are likely to be similar. Ditto the F-35.

      What specific listings are you having issue with? Can you provide me with a source contesting these numbers?

    4. Doug, I'm not trying to mess with you. The "historical" one, with all the comments, you did updatate pretty early on, remember? The "quick link" one, you updated the centerline tank fact, but used the non-updated/pre-ajusted facts on all other ranges, IR unit, etc. Probably by mistake, & I've tried to bring it to your attention before. As the "historical" page requires a bit of serching to be found by someone new to your blog, I think it might be a good thing to get it looked into, ok?
      I suggest you bring up the 2 pages factsheets & have a look & compare them. I belive what I'm trying to tell you should be obvious if you do. Remeber, the sheet with "Skyward G" is the most correct one. ;)

      About the link, I know it's not much new in slides of that presentation, but there are a few things mentioned verbally in swedish, like that they are not very close to 150% of Gripen C internal fuel capacity for the Gripen E, wich is the subject of the presentation/seminar. Another note is that they expect to be able to field software adjustments within 2 weeks from stated requirement in a field operation, when it comes to the non-flightcritical software..

    5. I see what you mean now, thanks. Both should be about the same now. (I had a regular Hornet pictured instead of a Super Hornet... How embarrassing!) I do remember you telling me before, and I kept assuming that the one with the Super Hornet was the "right" one.

      I wasn't able to get much from the Swedish presentation (I'm ashamed that I know more Klingon than Swedish) but I will try to keep things as current as I can. If you notice any more issues please let me know, preferably as specifically as possible to help speed up the process.

      Many of my numbers for the Gripen NG come from their presentation to the Netherlands, which can be found here:

      It is an older presentation (2009), but it provides some of the most specific numbers I have seen so far. No doubt some of those numbers have changed since then, but I don't want to post anything that isn't official or confirmed one way or the other.

      I'm guessing that more performance data for both the F-35 and the Gripen E will be available soon, once both fighters are further along in their development and the marketing becomes more aggressive for both.

      Thanks again.

  4. Ahh..!! much better!.. Although you missed the Payload..
    Anotherthing btw, that combat range figure for Gripen with AA missiles & droptank, note that it includes 30 min in station. Those 30 min on station probably equals about 200km more range, don't you think?..
    Further, one has to assume that is based on 140% of Gripen C fuel capacity, as that was where they were at in that stage of development. So if they now, as they start building early E versions can fit 150% of Gripen C fuel capacity, that should add nicely to it's range.. :)

    1. Derp.

      There! It should all be fixed now.

      I saw a post somewhere about swapping the Gripen's belly hardpoints for CFT with conformal weapon storage. Not a bad idea...

    2. Hi,

      I don't know the cost of CFT development, integration and certification, but it seems to be high, because everybody is working on it, without getting funds to implement it...

      As you probably know, Eurofighter and Rafale also have CFT projects or demonstrators.

  5. Where is the gripen's aesa radar on the drawing board maybe mhe he he. ;-*