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Selective Precision Effects at Range (Spear)

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The Royal Air Force is recasting a key capability in its air-to-surface repertoire as it tries to secure cash for the initial elements of the program in the next funding round.


Known as Selective Precision Effects at Range (Spear), the project is being redrawn as a multistage rather than a two-tier effort, as previously envisioned. Weapons procured to meet elements of Spear will be carried by the Tornado GR4, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Joint Combat Aircraft (Lockheed Martin F-35B).


The aim is to gain some development and procurement funding in Planning Round (PR) 10 on which Defense Ministry officials are already working. PR 09 has only just been completed.


Spear was conceived initially as a two-stage program. The so-called Drop 1 would cover a short-range weapon, with a powered weapon being purchased to meet the longer-range Drop 2 requirement.


Spear is now seen as comprising five capabilities, according to British industry executives. Capabilities 1 and 2 would likely be met by developments of the Raytheon Paveway IV and the MBDA Dual-Mode Brimstone, respectively. Capability 3 is understood to correspond to what was previously Spear Drop 2. The fourth element of the revised program encompasses upgrades to the Storm Shadow cruise missile, while the fifth element could cover a longer-range cruise missile.


The Paveway IV is now in use in Afghanistan on the Harrier GR9, and an urgent operational requirement (UOR), bringing forward integration of the weapon on the Tornado GR4, has effectively been completed. The GR4 is now due to take over from the GR9 in Afghanistan in July. While development problems delayed the weapon's initial entry into service, in operational use the Paveway IV is significantly exceeding the accuracy required by the Defense Ministry.


The Harrier GR9 is normally flown with two 500-lb. Paveway IVs each carried on the outboard pylons as part of the aircraft's weapon payload. The GR4 configuration cleared through the UOR is for three Paveway IVs. The full integration program, due to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2010, will allow up to five of the precision-guided bombs to be carried.


The Dual-Mode Brimstone was deployed on the GR4 at the end of 2008 with aircraft supporting British forces then in southern Iraq. The missile also will go to Afghanistan as part of the weapon fit for the GR4 deployment.


A raft of upgrades is under consideration for Dual-Mode Brimstone and the Paveway IV for the initial Spear capabilities. Insensitive-munition motor and warhead options are some of the possible modifications for Brimstone.


The Royal Air Force has been working on the Spear concept from around the turn of the decade, though the in-service dates of the various elements have shifted as a result of budget pressures and priorities. While in-service dates for Spear Capabilities 1 and 2 have yet to be fixed, the industry executives suggest the target could be as early as 2012 for the GR4 and the Typhoon.

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