MBDA has demonstrated its Dual Mode Brimstone missile on an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. (MBDA)
LONDON — The Royal Air Force is closing on a decision of whether to deploy Dual Mode Brimstone missiles on its remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper aircraft following a series of test firings in the US, including a hit on a small truck traveling at 70 mph.
European missile maker MBDA also said it hoped the trials would provide a backdrop to a possible US order this year.
MBDA said in a statement released March 21 that Dual Mode Brimstone had scored nine direct hits on a range of targets during test firings undertaken for the RAF Air Warfare Centre Unmanned Air Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron at the US Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.
An MoD spokeswoman said officials were still looking at the data and had “not taken any decision” as to what happens next in terms of a Reaper/Dual Mode Brimstone combination.
The RAF currently carries Hellfire and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on its Reaper fleet.
MBDA said the trials typically involved middle-of-the- envelop profiles with release at an altitude of 20,000 feet and at ranges of seven to 12 kilometers.
The weapon relies on millimetric wave radar and a semi-active laser for guidance, with the latter giving a man-in-the-loop capability.
The demonstration program undertaken during December 2013 and January 2014 was coordinated by the US Air Force’s Big Safari organization.
Dual Mode Brimstone is already used on RAF Tornado GR4 strike jets where its ability to achieve one-shot, one-kill with low collateral damage earned operational plaudits in Afghanistan and Libya.
Now the British, and others, are investigating the possibility of using the weapon on the General Atomics Reaper.
Steve Wadey, MBDA’s UK managing director, briefing reporters on the missile maker’s 2013 results in London March 19, wouldn’t be drawn on who the company was in talks with over the Dual Mode Brimstone’s possible deployment on unmanned air vehicles.
He did say, though, that the results were “pretty compelling” and the rapid prototyping work demonstrated in getting the weapon installed onto the platform gave MBDA the “opportunity to discuss with a number of customers the possibility of Brimstone for their benefit .”
The company has been trying to interest the US military in a possible purchase of Dual Mode Brimstone or the under-development, more advanced Brimstone 2 for some time.
Wadey said MBDA had been putting a lot of time and effort into the dialogue with the US customer, and although the trials were for the RAF the fact they were conducted in the US gave a “very strong backdrop to that conversation. During the course of this year we will see if it leads to success or not.”
The executive said the missile’s capabilities were a game changer but conceded time was of the essence in closing the deal with the US.
“We are working in an industry where people catch up, so people invest and people move on. While it is a unique game-changing capability from anything else that is out there, that will only last for a period of time. Whether it is exactly this year or not I cannot say, but clearly we are conscious that the time window will close, so, yes, we are putting maximum effort into that dialogue.”
“We are certainly pursuing it [the US discussions]with vigor and answering questions and providing the maximum support that we can to their assessment of the capability,” he said.