Number of locations
Key people
Chris Allam (Managing Director)
ProductsSee Products
Number of employees

MBDA UK is the British subsidiary of the pan-European missile systems company MBDA (itself a joint venture of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo). Formed in 2001, the company has produced a range of missile systems, including the CAMM missile family, Storm Shadow cruise missile, ASRAAM air-to-air missile and Meteor beyond-visual-range missile (BVRAAM).


Formation and early years

MBDA UK was first incorporated in 1996 as Brathwell, based in Cardiff, before being renamed Matra BAe Dynamics UK shortly afterwards, serving as the UK-based part of the Anglo-French missile systems company, Matra BAe Dynamics.[1] In 2001, Matra BAe Dynamics merged with the French EADS Aerospatiale Matra Missiles and Anglo-Italian Alenia Marconi Systems to form a pan-European missile systems company, named MBDA. After the merge, national subsidiaries were created from the predecessor companies in the United Kingdom, France and Italy and named MBDA UK, MBDA France and MBDA Italy, respectively.[2] MBDA UK inherited various products which were designed and manufactured by its predecessor companies, including Rapier[3] and Sea Wolf[4] surface-to-air missiles, which were originally manufactured by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC).

In 2001, the company delivered its Storm Shadow cruise missile to the Royal Air Force, which it had co-developed with the French subsidiary of Matra BAe Dynamics. Whilst the weapon was still in trials, it was pushed into operational service for use by the RAF during Operation Telic in Iraq.[5][6][7][8] The following year also saw the delivery of the ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missile, which had been in testing since 1998.[9] The missile was delivered 37 months behind schedule, due largely to hardware and software technical difficulties, however the UK Ministry of Defence also blamed the delays on MBDA for "failing to meet contractual performance".[9]

The company became the prime contractor for the Meteor programme in 2002 to deliver a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) to the RAF. Work for this missile was also subcontracted to its sister companies in France, Italy and Germany.[9] Several years later, in 2005, the company delivered its Brimstone air-launched ground-attack missile to the RAF.[10] Its first operational deployment came in 2008 during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan.[11]

In 2009, the company made its first export sale for ASRAAM to Australia.[12] This was followed shortly after by an export sale to Saudi Arabia.[13]


An RAF Brimstone missile strike during Operation Ellamy.

By 2010, the company had begun work on the Fire Shadow loitering munition for the British Army.[14] The company's Brimstone missile also received increased publicity following the launch of Operation Ellamy in Libya and Operation Shader in Iraq and Syria, with politicians and analysts highlighting the missile's low risk of collateral damage.[15] This resulted in increased interest in the missile on the export market, in particular by the United States and France.[16] The company further developed Brimstone into a range of variants, including a sea-launched Brimstone Sea Spear, Brimstone 3 and an entirely new missile, currently named SPEAR 3, which uses technology derived from Brimstone.[17]

The Lancaster House Treaties signed in 2010 by the British and French governments resulted in the company collaborating with MBDA France on several missile projects, including the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) (FASGW(H)) anti-ship missile, later named Sea Venom, and a new hypersonic cruise missile, later named Perseus.[18]

In 2018, MBDA UK opened a new facility in Bolton to carry out final assembly work for Meteor for all six European partner nations.[19] By 2018, the missile had achieved marked export success, with export sales to India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Brazil and Egypt, among other countries. Since 2014, MBDA UK also collaborated with Japan to produce a Japanese Meteor-derived missile, known as JNAAM.[20] During the same year, the company joined other leading British defence companies in Team Tempest, a consortium led by BAE Systems to develop the BAE Systems Tempest fighter aircraft. The company's responsibilities are to provide advanced weapon systems, including the integration of SPEAR 3 and Meteor missiles, electronic warfare capabilities and an anti-ship cruise missile which is still in development.[21]

The company's sales to Saudi Arabia, particularly of Brimstone and Storm Shadow ground-attack missiles, received increased scrutiny following the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and Saudi Arabia's alleged war crimes. The potential complicity of MBDA UK in these crimes became the subject of a 300-page report submitted to the International Criminal Court by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in 2019.[22]


An inert Sea Venom anti-ship missile.

MBDA UK is headquartered in Stevenage, England.[23] It has a workforce of 4,000 employees and has sites in Bristol, Bolton and Stevenage.[24] It is the only part of MBDA with a Special Security Agreement (SSA) with the U.S. Department of Defense, allowing it to carry out classified activities in the United States.[25] Chris Allam has been the company's Managing Director since 2018.[1]


Air-launched missiles

  • Meteor beyond-visual-range missile (prime contractor[9] in a joint venture with MBDA France, MBDA Germany and MBDA Italy)
  • ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missile
  • Brimstone ground-attack missile
  • SPEAR 3 ground-attack missile
  • Storm Shadow cruise missile (joint venture)
  • ALARM anti-radiation missile

Surface-based missiles



  1. ^ a b "MBDA UK Limited". Companies House. gov.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  2. ^ "History". MBDA. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  3. ^ "MBDA to support army air defence capability under joint MOD/MBDA "adapt" contract". MBDA. 11 September 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Five-Year Growth and MBDA Now Fully Integrated". MBDA. 13 February 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  5. ^ "ANALYSIS: How RAF's Tornados made storming contribution". Flight International. 8 March 2019. By then upgraded to the GR4 standard, the UK’s ground-attack aircraft played a part in the opening salvoes of the second conflict with Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq. This was a spectacular debut for its Storm Shadow weapons, which allowed pinpoint strikes to be conducted against key infrastructure targets from a launch distance of more than 135nm (250km).
  6. ^ "617 Squadron". www.raf.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 18 July 2020. 2003 - Flew the RAF's first operational mission using Storm Shadow.
  7. ^ Almond, Peter; Carr-Brown, Jonathon (30 March 2003). "Dambusters test-fire new missile". Sunday Times. London. [Wing Commander Robertson] set about completing his mission - firing Britain's first air-launched cruise missile, the Storm Shadow.
  8. ^ Hoyle, Craig (6 July 2004). "Flying colours; Last year's Iraq conflict was a solid test for the UK RAF after a decade that has brought it closer to industry. Its highest ranking officer discusses its performance". Flight International.
  9. ^ a b c d "Further memorandum by the Ministry of Defence". Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence. Ministry of Defence.
  10. ^ MoD's formidable new anti armour weapon records trials successes Archived 27 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "RAF Operational Update – Op Update 21 Dec 2008". Royal Air Force. 21 December 2008. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  12. ^ "RAAF Kills 'Over the Shoulder' with ASRAAM". Defense Industry Daily. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia Buys MBDA Missiles". AL Defaiya. 20 February 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Armed Forces Equipment Defence written statement – made on 29th March 2010". Hansard. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Who, What, Why: What is the Brimstone missile?". BBC News. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  16. ^ "US and France 'interested in Brimstone'". Defence Management. 20 April 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  17. ^ "MBDA conduct first firing of BRIMSTONE 3". UK Defence Journal. 21 March 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  18. ^ desider (PDF) (35 ed.). Ministry of Defence. 6 April 2011. p. 12.
  19. ^ "MBDA's new Bolton facility opened by UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson". MBDA. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  20. ^ Kosuke, Takahashi (30 September 2020). "Japan pushes forward with JNAAM co-development". IHS Janes.
  21. ^ "Future Combat Air System". BAE Systems. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  22. ^ "ICC must investigate arms company executives linked to Yemen war crimes allegations". Amnesty International. 12 December 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  23. ^ "About us". MBDA. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  24. ^ "MBDA Worldwide". MBDA. Retrieved 18 November 2020.