MBDA Meteor British AAM


MBDA Meteor is an active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) being developed by MBDA. It is to equip the Eurofighter Typhoons of the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF), Germany's Luftwaffe, Spain's Ejército del Aire and Italy's Aeronautica Militare Italiana, the British and Italian F-35s (both in the Air Force and Navy), the Dassault Rafales of France's Armée de l'Air and Marine Nationale, and the Saab JAS 39 Gripens of Sweden's Flygvapnet.

Scheduled to enter in service for the first time with the RAF in 2015, Meteor will offer a multi-shot capability against long range manoeuvring targets in a heavy electronic countermeasures (ECM) environment. According to MBDA, Meteor has three to six times the kinematic performance of current air-air missiles of its type. The key to Meteor's performance is throttleable ducted rocket (ramjet) manufactured by Bayern-Chemie (BC) of Germany.

MBDA Meteor Seeker

The active seeker is a joint development between MBDA's Seeker Division and Thales Airborne Systems and builds on their co-operation on the 4A (Active Anti-Air Seeker) family of seekers that equip the MICA and ASTER missiles. Thales contributes its experience and capabilities to MBDA-led definition studies and produces four sub-assemblies representing approximately 35% of the seeker.

MBDA Meteor Forebody

Immediately aft of the seeker, the missile forebody contains the inertial measurement system (IMS), provided by Litef, a German subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. The active radar proximity fuse subsystem (PFS) is provided by Saab Bofors Dynamics (SBD). The PFS detects the target during the end-game phase and calculates the optimum time to initiate the warhead in order to achieve the maximum lethal effect. The PFS has four antennae, arranged symmetrically around the forebody. The Impact Sensor is fitted inside the PFS. Behind the PFS is a section containing thermal batteries, provided by ASB, the AC Power Supply Unit, and the Power and Signal Distribution Unit.

The Forebody structure is designed and manufactured by Indra Sistemas, which is also responsible for the design and manufacture of the Interconnects cables, of the Umbilical cable, of the Control Fins, of the missile structure Joint Rings.

MBDA Meteor Warhead

The blast-fragmentation warhead is produced by TDW of Germany. The warhead is a structural component of the missile. A Telemetry and Break-Up System (TBUS) replaces the warhead on trials missiles.

MBDA Meteor Propulsion

The propulsion sub-system (PSS) is a Throttleable Ducted Rocket (TDR) with an integrated nozzleless booster, designed and manufactured by Bayern-Chemie (BC) of Germany. TDR propulsion provides a long range, a high average speed, a wide operational envelope from sea level to high altitude, a flexible mission envelope via active thrust control, relatively simple design, and logistics similar to those of conventional solid rocket motors.

The PSS consists of four main components: a ramcombustor with integrated nozzleless booster; the air intakes; the interstage; and the sustain gas generator. The PSS forms a structural component of the missile, the gas generator and ramcombustor having steel cases. The propulsion control unit electronics are mounted in the port intake fairing, ahead of the fin actuation subsystem.

The solid propellant nozzleless booster is integrated within the ramcombustor and accelerates the missile to a velocity where the TDR can take over. The reduced smoke propellant complies with STANAG 6016.

The air intakes and the port covers which seal the intake diffusors from the ramcombustor remain closed during the boost phase. The intakes are manufactured from titanium.

The interstage is mounted between the GG and the ramcombustor and contains the Motor Safety Ignition Unit (MSIU), the booster igniter, and the gas generator control valve.

The gas generator is ignited by the hot gases from the booster combustion which flow through the open control valve. The gas generator contains an oxygen deficient composite solid propellant which produces a hot, fuel-rich gas which auto-ignites in the air which has been decelerated and compressed by the intakes. The high energy boron-loaded propellant provides a roughly threefold increase in specific impulse compared to conventional solid rocket motors.

The thrust is controlled by a valve which varies the throat area of the gas generator nozzle. Reducing the throat area increases the pressure in the gas generator which increases the propellant burn rate, increasing the fuel mass flow into the ramcombustor. The mass flow can be varied continuously over a ratio greater than 10:1.

The Meteor PSS will be able to cope with high incidence and limited sideslip angles during manoeuvres but not negative incidences or large amounts of sideslip.

MBDA Meteor Control

The missile trajectory is controlled aerodynamically using four rear-mounted fins. Meteor's control principles are intended to allow high turn rates while maintaining intake and propulsion performance.

The fin actuation subsystem (FAS) was originally designed and manufactured by the Claverham Group (formerly Fairey Hydraulics Limited) a Somerset, UK, based division of the U.S. company Hamilton Sundstrand. Currently the design has been taken onboard by the MBDA British division, at Stevenage. The FAS is mounted at the rear of the intake fairings. The design of the FAS is complicated by the linkages required between the actuators, which are located in the intake fairings, and the body-mounted fins.

MBDA Meteor Datalink

Meteor will be 'network-enabled'. A two-way datalink will allow the launch aircraft to provide mid-course target updates or retargeting if required, including data from offboard third-parties. The datalink will be able to transmit missile information such as functional and kinematic status, information on multiple targets, and notification of target acquisition by the seeker. The two-way datalink is compatible with Eurofighter and Gripen but not with Rafale which is fitted with a one-way link originally designed for use with MICA. French missiles will be fitted with a different unit. The datalink electronics are mounted in the starboard intake fairing, ahead of the FAS. The antenna is mounted in the rear of the fairing.

On 19 November 1996 BC completed the latest in a series of tests designed to assess the attenuation of signals by the boron rich exhaust plume of the TDR, a concern highlighted by opponents of this form of ramjet propulsion. Tests were conducted with signals transmitted through the plume at various angles. The initial results suggested that the attenuation was much less than expected.

MBDA Meteor Support

The Integrated Logistics Support concept proposed for Meteor does away with line maintenance. The missiles will be stored in dedicated containers when not in use. If the Built-In Test equipment detects a fault the missile will be returned to MBDA for repair. Meteor is intended to have an airborne carriage life of 1,000 hours before any maintenance is required.

MBDA Meteor
Type Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile
Service history
In service Not yet in service; Development to be completed in 2013.
Production history
Manufacturer MBDA
Unit cost GBP 1,000,000
Weight 185 kg (407 lb)
Length 3.65 m (12.00 ft)
Diameter 0.178 m (7.00 in)

Warhead High Explosive Blast-Fragmentation

Engine Throttleable ducted rocket
100+ km (60+ mi)
Speed over Mach 4
Inertial Mid-course with Datalinked Updates, Active Radar
Eurofighter Typhoon
Dassault Rafale
JAS 39 Gripen

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