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BRIMSTONE utilises a mmW active radar seeker providing all-weather, 24 hour a day operation, whilst having virtually undetectable transmissions. The missile carries a high-lethality, tandem shaped charge warhead, capable of defeating all currently anticipated threats, including Main Battle Tanks (MBTís) fitted with the latest Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA).

The Royal Air Force needs a replacement for BL755, a weapon that was becoming increasingly ineffective against modern armour. It was to be carried on Tornado GR4/4A, Harrier GR7/T10, and Eurofighter, and be capable of defeating the present and future battlefield threat. The store had to be totally autonomous after launch (fire and forget), and operate by night or day in all weather conditions.

The Staff Target for an Advanced Air-Launched Anti-Armour Weapon was originally endorsed in 1981. An Invitation to Tender followed, leading to a Risk Reduction Programme for two solutions. As a result of Options for Change and Treasury intervention however, the program was cancelled in 1990, only to be reinstated in 1992, following a study into the entire UK anti-armour capability. The requirements were presented to industry via a Cardinal Point Specification which, while demanding compliance against certain essential features, gave scope for innovation, novel ideas, or possibly off-the-shelf procurement.

Five different compliant solutions were proposed by industry, comprising two un-powered glide dispensers, two missile-based weapons, and one a hybrid of both technologies. Bid assessment took place between June 1995 and February 1996, following which the Equipment Approvals Committee recommended that GEC-Marconi Radar and Defence Systems Ltd (GMRDS) should be awarded a contract based on their Brimstone weapon.

Brimstone beat off competition from some of the best-known names in the international defence market. Hunting Engineering and Texas Instruments proposed SWAARM and Griffin 38 respectively. These were both glide dispensers that flew un-powered towards the target before deploying a large number of small munitions overhead to defeat intended targets. The British Aerospace proposal was a weapon system named Typhoon and was based on the ASRAAM air to air missile. The final contender was the Thomson Thorn TAAWS weapon, based on BL755 but with a small rocket motor on each sub-munition to accelerate it away from the aircraft.

Brimstone is derived from the US Army Hellfire AGM-114F missile, with a weapon comprising three missiles and a launcher. Powered by a rocket motor it can seek and destroy targets many kilometres from launch point. A millimetric wave radar seeker developed by GMRDS achieves ground acquisition and target recognition, while steerable fins guide the missile towards the target, with final impact causing a tandem shaped charge warhead to detonate. The first, smaller warhead nullifies reactive armour, allowing the follow-through warhead to penetrate the main armour.

The contract value is £700 million with the total through-life cost of the weapon coming to just over £1 billion. The weapon enters service with the Royal Air Force in October 2001. Contractual milestones appear periodically throughout development to mark major achievements, such as design reviews and successful completion of trials.

The prime contract and weapon Design Authority is Alenia Marconi Systems (formerly GEC-Marconi) based in Stanmore and, while experienced in defence programmes, this is their first time as a weapon prime contractor. Their major sub-contractor is Boeing North American based in Duluth, Georgia who supply the missile bus and launcher electronics assembly. Flight Refuelling Ltd is the Design Authority for the launcher structure with Air Log Ltd, producing the missile container. Development activities continue through to an in-service date of October 2001, and weapon deliveries run from early 2001 until mid 2006.

In October 1998, it was announced that Brimstone had been nominated as one of the defence programs to become a pilot Integrated Project Team. Carrying a mandate to investigate gainsharing opportunities, the prime objectives being developed are to identify and capture significant performance, time and cost benefits over the life of the project. It was recognised fairly early in the process that due to the maturity of the design, increased performance would be difficult to achieve without additional risk. Efforts have therefore been concentrated on cost reduction and optimisation of timescales. The key issues currently being addressed in pursuit of the time/cost aims are restructuring in-service support, rationalisation of performance requirements, optimisation of capability for ISD, and minimising the impact of closure of the Boeing plant in Duluth with transfer of work to St Louis.


Entered Service
Total length
Warhead Weight
Maximum Speed
Maximum effective range
Guidance mode
Single-shot hit probability

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