"These new missiles, combined with our new F35 Lightning, will enable us to hit our enemies harder. They are both part of our commitment to increase defence spending to keep Britain safe."
British aircraft have been hitting Daesh targets in the Middle East with Brimstone air-to-surface missiles since November last year. However, planning for an upgrade is already underway.
French, Italian, and British missile manufacturer MBDA will produce new Spear 3 warheads which will go into service in 2025, in conjunction with the F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft (due in 2018 and manufactured in the US by Lockheed Martin).
While the Brimstone is already capable of hitting targets from 20,000 feet and seven miles away, Spear 3s are expected to have an effective range of at least 100kms, and possibly as far as 120 (almost 75 miles). Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
RAF Tornados currently carry Brimstones in clusters of three warheads, allowing for a maximum payload of up to 18.
Spear 3s, however, will be clustered in packs of four, potentially allowing for 24 of them to be carried (in addition to other types of weapons).
As with the Brimstone, Spear 3s will be fire-and-forget, meaning they'll be self-guiding after launch, flying on turbojets and wing kits at high-subsonic speeds.
The MoD says the contract, which will reportedly cost £411 million, will create 700 jobs in the UK, 350 skilled, and 350 in supply.