When a Swedish air force pilot fires a Meteor missile, he does not need to see the target. It looks up its target, and the pilot communicates with the missile until impact.
The radar-guided Meteor missile, together with the aircraft's sensors and support systems, is a powerful weapon for detecting and despising enemy flights.
Meteor has been developed in cooperation between Sweden, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. But only Sweden currently has the system for operational use by its air force.
“The others are not finished yet. They are close but not yet there," says Anette Björkman, Head of Gripen Weapons and Support Systems at FMV.
"We were able to quickly get the entire system -- aircraft and missile -- working together because we were perfectly in tune with the development of the JAS Gripen, and because we used a Gripen test platform for much of the missile development. This taught us a lot, and made it possible to influence the design to suit our needs.”
Advanced weapons require further work
Since Sweden and Saab were able to offer the fastest integration on an aircraft, JAS 39 Gripen served as the main test platform during the development of the long-range radar-controlled Meteor interceptor missile.
A large number of missiles have already been fired from the aircraft, both during the development of the missile and in the process of integrating it into the Gripen system.
The Meteor missile program was launched in 2002 and ended in 2015 with the supplier's release of the Certificate of Design. Meteor is operational in Sweden since 2016, but this does not mean that our cooperation in the international Meteor project has been completed.
"We have a co-worker at the UK project manager who is in charge of different working groups. At the project office, the other countries are also involved and they are conducting various issues with the supplier, MBDA,” says Anette Björkman. The working groups are then manned by staff from the different countries, for Sweden's staff of FMV and the Armed Forces.
Software based system
Among the issues the workgroups cover are operator, maintenance and performance issues. Another area where all countries interact are ammunition monitoring, to ensure the material remains safe over time.
Meteor is a software-based weapon system, which makes it possible to reprogram it, so changes in the outside world can be met with upgrades of the software.
“Upgrades may need to be done when, for example, the platforms are upgraded. For example, the new Gripen E will have an ejector kit to jettison the missile. The Gripen C / D has only rail lowering. This allows Gripen E to carry weapons under the aircraft body as well. When there’s a change in the planet, we need to take care of it," says Anette Björkman.
Meteor gives deterrent effect
There is a lot to work for a system like the JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft to work with all its subsystems. Meteor is one of them, but it's not enough that the weapon is operational, there is an organization behind it for training and logistics as well as pilot training and tactics.
Pierre Ziherl is the pilot and director of TU JAS, Tactical Development JAS 39 Gripen. A single task: to develop the tactical ability within the Gripen system. He appreciates the new weapon.
“Meteor is the world's most modern and best radar-guided missile. Combined with our IR-guided missile, IRIS-T, we now have the world's best air-to-air missiles on one of the world's best aircraft. Together, they provide a basic capability for the Air Force. It contributes to increased threshold effect, and thus the deterrent effect that a superior ability gives a party.”
Long-range air strikes are simplified so that an enemy flight is detected by an early warning aircraft, which sends target data to a fighter plane which, in turn, fires a Meteor and sends target data to the missile by datalink.
European cooperation on the Meteor missile system began in 2002 with participants from Britain, as lead nation, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Meteor is the next generation's long-range radar-controlled missile. It is powered by a ramjet engine that allows for control of power take-off, thus maximizing missile performance in track, speed and range. The missile is robust, that is, it is resistant to electronic countermeasures, and equipped with a data link for two-way communication with the aircraft.
Swedish industry has participated in the development and also produces some of the missile's subsystems. Final assembly takes place in the UK.