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Known as SPEAR3, the next-generation missile can travel long distances at high-subsonic speed and over the next decade will become the Royal Navy’s primary air-to-ground weapon. The investment, worth £550m, will see the installation of new surface-attack missiles and will support hundreds of UK jobs.
At 1.8 metres long, the missile system has a range of more than 140-kilometres and, powered by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, day or night.
The missiles will have the capability to overpower any enemy air defence systems, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The system will become the F35’s plane primary air-to-ground weapon which forms part of the Queen Elizabeth class carrier strike group.
The strike group is led by HMS Queen Elizabeth – named after 16th-century monarch Elizabeth I – which weighs 72,000 tons and 932 feet long.
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The Carrier Strike Group (CSG) together cost more than £6billion and are the largest ships in the history of the Royal Navy.
One Whitehall official told Express.co.uk the investment will ensure the UK is “ready for any war or conflict”.
Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The development of this next-generation missile will allow us to protect our personnel and assets on the ground, from thousands of metres in the sky above.
“Our commitment to this system will secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK and showcase British technology and weapon expertise on the world stage.”
The £550m investment consists of a contract with MBDA which will support more than 700 UK jobs, including the creation of 190 highly skilled technology jobs in system design, guidance control and navigation and software engineering.
At the same time, ministers also revealed the HMS Queen Elizabeth was now ready to set sail at five days notice in the event of a war.
Mr Quinn, added: “This is a hugely significant milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy and the whole country.
“This achievement is a testament to the determination of our service personnel and industry workforce who have delivered this first-rate military capability, a capability held by only a handful of nations.”
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Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the commanding officer of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG), added: “In practical terms, my Strike Group is now at Very High Readiness, meaning we are at five days’ notice to deploy, if required, in response to global events and in defence of British interests.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said the contract would help to deliver a “£1.2billion long-term saving to UK defence”.
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