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Britain awards MBDA $239M for ASRAAM missiles for F-35s

By Allen Cone
Britain contracts MBDA to equip its F-35 aircraft with new Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Pictured, an F-35B takes off from the Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Carter
Britain contracts MBDA to equip its F-35 aircraft with new Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Pictured, an F-35B takes off from the Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Carter

LONDON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Britain on Tuesday awarded a $239 million contract to missile maker MBDA to equip its new F-35 fighter jets with heat-seeking weaponry.

The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile, known as ASRAAM, uses a sophisticated infrared seeker designed to enable Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots to detect other aircraft from the air and the country's two new aircraft carriers, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

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MBDA also will manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the weapon beyond 2022.

MBDA is owned by Franco-German group Airbus, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Leonardo-Finmeccanica.

Britain has ordered 138 Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth jets. The supersonic, 5th-generation aircraft is 51 feet long with a 460-foot wingspan.

On June 2, an F-35B landed at RAF Fairford after a trip from Beaufort, S.C. It was the first time an F-35 landed on Britain soil.

The F-35B can operate from short-field bases and ships in addition to conventional landing bases. The F-35A is limited to longer runways.

The missile contract will add 400 jobs across England and is part of the defense ministry's $232 billion Equipment Plan, part of a defense budget set to increase yearly until the end of the decade, the ministry said in a statement.

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