When you think of a meteor, your mind likely points to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Well, if we're being technical, that was actually a meteorite, but the details aren't important. The fact is, that giant, extinction-bringing boulder came from seemingly nowhere and took out the dinosaurs — who had no idea what hit them.
The British have developed a new, beyond-visual-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile, appropriately named Meteor. It, too, is a bolt that comes from out of the blue to wipe something out of existence. It may be much smaller than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but for the aircraft it targets, well, it's just as final.
The Meteor is actually the latest in a long line of British missiles designed for air-to-air combat.
The United Kingdom developed an improved Sparrow called Sky Flash.
Believe it or not, Britain's use of the American-made AIM-9 Sidewinder in the Falklands was a rare event. The Brits had actually developed a number of air-to-air missiles on their own. For example, the Red Top and Firestreak missiles were used on fighters, like the de Havilland Sea Vixen and the English Electric Lightning. The British also made an improved version of the AIM-7 Sparrow, called the Sky Flash.
The British also developed the AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which the United States had planned on buying until the end of the Cold War. The British acquired the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from the United States, but soon realized that they needed more range. So, they added a ramjet engine to the AMRAAM and the Meteor was born.
The Meteor and Spear combine to give the F-35 long-range punch with an itty-bitty radar cross section.
The new Meteor makes for a perfect complement to the MBDA Spear, allowing British F-35s to hit targets dozens of miles away while maintaining a very small radar cross section. An official handout showed that F-35s can carry eight Spear missiles, two Meteors, and two ASRAAMs.
The Meteor has entered service with the Swedish Air Force, and will also operate on the Rafale and the Eurofigther Typhoon. Japan is reportedly teaming up with the UK for to create a new version of this system.
And so the British tradition of developing lethal missiles continues!