LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defence is set to order a new batch of Brimstone precision-guided missiles from maker MBDA as the Royal Air Force continues to rebuild weapon stocks in the wake of the Libyan conflict.
A new order for the Dual Mode Brimstone air-to-surface weapon, possibly worth tens of millions of pounds, could be announced within days, said sources with knowledge of the program.
The missiles will also fill a gap in RAF inventories caused by a 28-month delay in development of a new Brimstone 2 version of the weapon, scheduled to have been in service in October 2012.
An MoD spokesman confirmed a Brimstone order was in the pipeline. MBDA declined to comment.
The Dual Mode variant entered service with the RAF in 2008 as an urgent operational requirement. The weapon is currently deployed only on Tornado GR4s.
Dual Mode Brimstone, which uses a millimetric radar and a laser-guided, man-in-the-loop system, has been widely used in Afghanistan and more recently Libya.
About 230 of the missiles were fired in Libya. The upcoming order is the first replenishment deal since the conflict ended, although the British struck a deal with MBDA as the NATO mission was drawing to a close in 2011.
An earlier contract just before the Libyan conflict got underway helped MBDA surge production at its U.K. production site to keep pace with demand. The December 2010 order involved 150 weapons, but numbers nor value of the 2011 Brimstone deal has not been released.
The missiles are taken from existing weapons fitted with just the original millimetric radar and updated with the addition of a laser guidance system to give Brimstone its dual-mode capability.
The RAF had planned to be inducting the new Brimstone 2 version of the weapon by now to meet a requirement called Selected Precision Effects at Range Capability 2 Block 1.
The National Audit Office, the government’s spending watchdog, reported last week that the program’s in-service date had been put back to February 2015 as a result of technical problems with insensitive munitions-compliant rocket motor and warhead. The new weapon will also incorporate new sensors.
MBDA said last week that the warhead issues had been resolved, and the recovery program on the Roxel-made motor is “progressing well.”
The Brimstone order follows hard on the heels of the MoD’s deal with Raytheon UK for delivery of its Paveway IV precision-guided bomb. With about 900 Paveway IVs fired during the campaign, the weapon was the biggest single type used by the Royal Air Force. That’s reflected in three orders, together worth more than 100 million pounds ($161.3 million), awarded to Raytheon’s UK arm over the last eight months to replenish stocks.
The last order, announced Dec. 3, brings the total number of the bombs purchased to around 1,600, said the Ministry of Defence in a statement Dec 13.