LONDON — In what is expected to be the final significant military equipment announcement by the British government ahead of the June 8 general election, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has revealed a set of missile-related orders with MBDA worth more than half a billion dollars.
Official go-ahead for the start of integration work on the Meteor air-to-air missile on the Lockheed Martin F-35B; a new production order for the Common Anti-air Modular Missile, or CAMM, for the British Army and Royal Navy; and a new deal to support the Sea Viper anti-air system deployed on Type 45 destroyers were all announced by Fallon at a hurriedly arranged visit to MBDA's Stevenage, England, site on April 21.
"This substantial investment in missile systems is vital in protecting our ships and planes from the most complex global threats. … [T]hese contracts will sustain high-skilled jobs across the UK and demonstrate that strong defence and a strong economy go hand in hand," Fallon said in a statement.
In all, the Ministry of Defence is investing £539 million (U.S. $690 million) in the orders, some of which have been sitting around for months awaiting announcement.
The deals are likely to be the last defense equipment announcement for a while following Prime Minister Theresa May's surprise decision to hold a general election on June 8. In the preelection period, Britain effectively goes into an orders lock down, or "purdah" as it is referred to here, with government unable to announce new or controversial initiatives or deals, except in an emergency.
Aside from orders, the purdah period could impact publication of the national shipbuilding strategy, which had been expected to be released soon along with the wider defense industrial strategy white paper.
The Meteor missile is fired from a fighter jet in this artist's rendering.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of MBDA Systems
Consultation on the defense industrial strategy closed April 17. A white paper was broadly expected sometime this summer but may be knocked off course by the election.
Fallon's announcement at Stevenage gave the official go-ahead for the start of the integration of the Meteor missile onto the F-35B fleet now slowly being built up by the British for use by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
The defense secretary said that the MoD was investing £41 million into the Meteor's integration and that the missiles would enter service on the F-35B in 2024. But the missile is expected to enter service even sooner next year when it begins to replace the Raytheon-made Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles on the Air Force's Typhoon fleet.
The order for production of the CAMM missile is worth £323. The MoD has previously ordered two batches of weapons in contracts together valued at £324 million.
CAMM will replace the aging Rapier missile system as part of the British Army's ground-based air defense system. The Royal Navy is also getting the weapon, where it is known as the Sea Ceptor, for its existing Type 23 frigate and the upcoming Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigate.
The final deal is a £175 million continuation of an in-service support contract already delivered by MBDA for the Type 45's anti-air Sea Viper weapon system.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.