The World’s Best Aircraft-Killer Missile is Now in Service (And Its Not American)

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Robert Beckhusen  July 23, 2016

The technical details of air-to-air missiles are extremely complicated, but the concept is simple — destroy your target before the target destroys you.

One way to improve the odds is to add an air-breathing ramjet engine to give the weapon a boost. That’s the design philosophy behind the Meteor, a 419-pound rail-launched MiG killer which entered service for the first time with the Swedish air force on July 11.

Stockholm’s agile, delta-wing Gripen fighters carry the missiles.

“The Swedish air force is now in its Initial Operational Capability phase with the Meteor,” Swedish air force chief Maj. Gen. Mats Helgesson said. “The Meteor missile is the most lethal radar-guided missile in operational service.”

Meteor’s exact specifications are classified, and it being the best in the world is debatable. But it’s not unreasonable — and that’s because of the missile’s ramjet.

Here’s how it works. A conventional solid-fuel booster accelerates the Meteor after launch, like most air-to-air missiles. But while roaring through the air, the missile opens up a chute, allowing air to rush into the engine, which heats up the oxygen and propels the supersonic missile to Mach 4.

Not only that, the missile can adjust how much oxygen it breathes, conserving energy during the coast phase, only to take a deep breath in the final moments before hitting a target.

The result is that if a targeted plane tries to dodge out of the way, Meteor can overcome it by summoning more thrust, and thus more maneuverability, during those precious few seconds.

Precisely how far the Meteor can go is the big question.

International arms consortiums and governments do not like to openly advertise the specific capabilities of their weapons. That’s especially the case with high-tech ramjets, and all the more because Russia and China are developing their own versions to compete with Meteor.

We do know that one test off Scotland sent the missile “well in excess of 100 kilometers,” an MBDA engineer told AINonline. The firm has boasted of a “no-escape zone” three times that of the U.S.-made AIM-120 AMRAAM — likewise classified.

The no-escape zone is an aerial combat term for a cone-shaped area — determined by the missile’s capabilities — from where a targeted aircraft cannot escape solely using its own maneuverability. Countermeasures and spoofing is a last resort, but otherwise the aircraft has a high probability of getting toasted.

Range and speed is all well and good. But Meteor also needs to home in on a target for the shot to count. For this, Meteor has a datalink connecting its guidance system to the fighter and its more powerful, longer-range sensors.

Meteor is strongly associated with Sweden, although it’s very much a broader European project with the missile conglomerate MBDA working as the manufacturer. Sweden is the first country to make the Meteor operational, but Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany and France are next.

Germany, Spain and Britain intend to equip Meteors on their Eurofighter Typhoons. France will get the missiles for its Rafales. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters could follow.

That Sweden has high-tech missiles might seem unusual.

The country is neutral, and its air force hasn’t fired a shot in anger since the Congo crisis in the early 1960s. But Sweden is a major weapons exporter — the 12th largest according to 2014 data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Sweden works closely with the NATO alliance during military exercises. And in May, the Swedish parliament ratified an agreement allowing NATO more room to conduct exercises in the country.

The reason is clearly Russia, which has repeatedly violated Sweden’s airspace and carried out simulated nuclear attack runs on the country. Although greater cooperation with the alliance is controversial within Sweden.

MBDA designed the Meteor to work with the F-35. But as of now, the Block 4 software needed to fire it from the stealth jet isn’t available — and won’t be until the early 2020s in the best case scenario. In May 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned that the F-35’s software’s “cost, schedule and performance goals” were at risk.

By the time the Pentagon sorts that out, the Meteor will have served for years … with the Gripen.

This first appeared in WarIsBoring here

Original post @nationalinterest.org


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


Meteor is a next generation, active radar-guided, beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) system. The missile is being developed by MBDA Systems for six European nations.

The Meteor BVRAAM can be integrated on Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale aircraft. The Meteor missile can also be installed on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).


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.


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.

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.

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.

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. Source @airforce-technology.com

Meteor – Beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM)

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