Britain is spending £184 million ($239 million) stockpiling a new version of the ASRAAM short range air-to-air missiles ahead of equipping the F-35B Lightning II combat jet with the weapon, the Ministry of Defence said Aug 16.
The Ministry of Defence said the new order would see F-35s operated by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy start to use an updated version of the missile beyond 2022.
The order for additional ASRAAM’s follows an announcement last September of a £300 million deal with missile maker MBDA to design and build an initial batch of updated weapons.
Typhoon and Tornado combat jets are already cleared to carry the current version of ASRAAM.
The updated variant of the missile is expected to enter service on the Typhoon in 2018, the MoD said in a statement.
British F-35s will carry the current version of ASRAAM until 2022 at which point it will be taken out of service.
The first F-35s are scheduled to be introduced into service with a British air force squadron in 2019. Royal Navy jets onboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are planned to become operational the following year
F-35 flight integration trials on ASRAAM have already begun in the USA. Integration of Raytheon’s Paveway IV precision guided bomb is also underway on the jet.
The new ASRAAMs will be built at a new £40 million manufacturing facility now nearing completion in Bolton, north west England.