Meteor introduction transforms Swedish air defence

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Sweden’s air force has begun fielding the new MS20-standard software for its Saab Gripen C/D fleet, representing a significant increase in operational capability.

The process of introducing the standard began recently, with MS20 adding MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and Boeing’s GBU-39 small diameter bomb to the single-engined fighter’s suite of weapons. Other enhancements include enhanced Link 16 capability for situational awareness, a new data link added to enhance capability during close air support missions, expanded functionality for the pilot’s helmet-mounted sight, an infrared reconnaissance pod and an automatic ground collision avoidance system.

Asset ImageSaab

Speaking at Saab’s Linköping site on 18 May, head of aeronautics Ulf Nilsson described the current model’s enhancement as “a revolutionary update,” adding: “It will be operational later this year with the Swedish air force.” Aircraft assigned to the service’s six fighter squadrons will progressively receive the software and hardware updates, which are likely to take around one week to embody per aircraft.

According to Swedish air force chief Maj Gen Mats Helgesson, the Meteor’s addition is of particular significance. “From our perspective that’s a game-changer,” he says. “This is something that we have invested lots of money in, and makes the C/D a really potent air defender again.”

Asset ImageCraig Hoyle/Flightglobal

Swedish aircraft have flown with the weapon, but it has not yet been carried during a quick reaction alert sortie, he confirms. The air force is seeing a similar requirement for such activity so far this year as in 2015, when around 330 missions were launched.

“We are the first air force operating the Meteor,” Helgesson notes, with the long-range system also to be introduced on France’s Dassault Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons flown by Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. “We are not completely ready with all the tactics, but it is fielded.”

Up to 16 wingkit-equipped GBU-39 bombs can also be carried following the MS20 update, using four-round launchers for the 110kg (250lb) strike weapon.

Following its introduction with the Swedish air force, the new software standard will also be available for adoption by other Gripen C/D operators, which include the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. And despite the roll-out of the company’s new-generation E-model jet, Saab’s head of Gripen, Jerker Ahlqvist, says the development path for the current version “goes well into the next 10 years”.


Meteor – Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)

Design of the Meteor missile system

The missile, being designed as a complete unit, requires no assembly and maintenance immediately before loading. This arrangement reduces its overall life logistic support cost.

Meteor can be launched as a stealth missile. It is equipped with enhanced kinematics features. It is capable of striking different types of targets simultaneously in almost any weather.

The Meteor has a length of 3.65m and diameter of 0.178m. It is designed to be compatible with AIM-120 type rail and eject launcher systems.

Meteor BVRAAM blast-fragmentation warhead

The Meteor missile is equipped with a blast-fragmentation warhead, supplied by TDW of Germany. The warhead is designed as a structural component of the missile. The missile integrates proximity and impact fuses.

Sensors on the beyond visual range air-to-air missile

The Meteor is equipped with a two way datalink, which allows the launch platform to provide updates on targets or re-targeting when the missile is in flight. The datalink is capable of transmitting information such as kinematic status. It also notifies target acquisition by the seeker.

The Meteor is installed with an active radar target seeker, offering high reliability in detection, tracking and classification of targets. The missile also integrates inertial measurement system (IMS) supplied by Litef.

Meteor missile performance

The missile has a range in excess of 100km. It is designed for a speed greater than Mach 4. The missile has a large no escape zone.

Propulsion system on the next generation missile

The Meteor missile is powered by a solid fuel variable flow ducted rocket (ramjet) supplied by Bayern-Chemie. The ramjet provides the Meteor missile with a capability to maintain consistent high speeds. This ability helps the missile to chase and destroy fast moving flexible targets.

The Meteor includes an electronics and propulsion control unit (EPCU). The EPCU adjusts the rocket’s air intake and duct covers based on the cruise speed and the target’s altitude.

The EPCU observes the distance and fuel level in the rocket and adjusts the throttle of the rocket. This feature of the EPCU helps the missile to manage its fuel system.


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