The German Eurofighter’s Meteor Missile enters final trials

The German Air Force has begun flight tests for its new beyond visual range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM), the Meteor, though a live fire test is yet to be officially scheduled. The German procurement authority has also commissioned a new self-protection system from Hensoldt, while other upgrades for the Eurofighter are also on their way.

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Two Eurofighter of the 74th Tactical Air Force Wing (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74) have been equipped with MBDA’s Meteor BVRAAM to test the manufacturer's specifications for the Eurofighter regarding the new software versions correspond to the actual values and what effects Meteor has on the flight behaviour and fuel consumption of the Eurofighter. Compared to the previous armament of the Eurofighter, for example with AMRAAM, the upgrade with the new Meteor missile also results in structural changes to the jet. This, in turn, influences the flight behaviour, among other things.

In a statement provided by the servicem a Eurofighter pilot explains: "Imagine you are driving your car and you have fitted a roof rack. The first thing you will notice is that the air resistance increases and thus also the consumption of your car.” While changes are minimal as the weapons are designed to be deliberately similar, “we need the exact consumption values in order to accurately calculate our range and maximum flight time with the weapons load."

The result of the first flights was positive "Everything went as planned. All the necessary values were fulfilled." This means that the necessary requirements have been met and Meteor can be smoothly integrated into the air force after the remaining verification flights, provided they are also successful. The completion of operational testing is planned for this summer. The AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles will nevertheless remain an important part of the Eurofighter weapon system.

Meteor is 3.7 m long and weighs 190 kg. After an initial boost phase, the missile is propelled by Solid fuel variable flow ducted rocket (ramjet). This results in constant thrust during the missiles flight, meaning it stays manoeuvrable, even during the terminal phase. This in turn leaves little opportunity for the opponent to escape, with MBDA claiming it to have the “largest No-Escape Zone of any air-to-air missile”. The missile is guided by an active radar and detonated by a proximity or impact fuse.

Meteor has been developed by a group of European partners led by MBDA to meet the needs of six European nations: the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. The weapon system first entered service in 2016 with the Swedish Air Force on board it’s JAS 30 Gripen fighter. Britain first equipped its Eurofighter with the missile in 2018, and this year saw the first operational flights of French Rafale with the missile. The missile will also be operated by Brazil, Greece, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who will use it as armament for their Gripen, Rafale or Eurofigher jets. The missile is also to be integrated into the F-35 as well as Koreas planned KF-X design. Additionally, Meteor is the basis of a development between the United Kingdom and Japan of the Joint New Air-to-Air Missile (JNAAM), which is to be carried by the Japanese F-35s.

As an indigenous European project, the missile also marks an important step in European defence autonomy. Together with the similarly European IRIS-T missile, a wide range of Air-to-Air missiles can be produced without reliance on American technology or manufacturing.

On 2 August the German procurement authority BAAINBw has also commissioned German-based sensor solution provider Hensoldt to investigate the modernisation and performance enhancement of the Eurofighter self-protection system in a multi-year study. The study mandate aims to ensure the Eurofighter's survivability even against modern threats, such as long-range integrated air defence systems and highly agile radars. At the same time, new cyber security requirements, the use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components and the new Eurofighter design and development standards will be considered. Preparations for a comprehensive weapon system update have begun with the Eurofighter Long Term Evolution (LTE) programme to ensure operational capability. To this end, the EuroDASS consortium (Leonardo UK, Elettronica, Indra, Hensoldt) has developed a redesign of the self-protection system under the name Praetorian eVolution (eVo for short).

On August 6 Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH and the NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), have signed a contract worth close to €300 million, which provides the next steps in the capability evolution of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft. The contract’s most important elements include capability enhancements when operating Meteor, with the capability implementation being transferred from the current M-Scan to the new E-Scan radar. The package also includes improvements to Brimstone precision air-to-surface operations, along with adaptations to the cockpit display formats, interoperability enhancements, and further improvements towards its Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS). The capability development will primarily take place within the four Eurofighter Partner Companies — BAE Systems, Airbus Germany, Airbus Spain and Leonardo — but with significant aspects being undertaken within the wider supply base, most specifically EuroRadar and EuroDASS.

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