Firing the world’s first Brimstone 3

After completing the MBDA graduate scheme as an Integration and Systems Validation Engineer, Alex tells us about his role as a Senior Integration and Systems Validation Engineer in the Brimstone Trials Team.

“My role in Brimstone is to be responsible for conducting firing trials. For Brimstone 3, we are conducting ground firing trials as this allows us to prove the missile system, whilst also making a cost saving as we don’t require an aircraft platform to conduct the trials.”

Brimstone 3 is the product of the Brimstone Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP), announced in March 2018, which will provide new Brimstone missiles for the UK Armed Forces. The new-build missiles will incorporate all of the improved functionalities offered by the spiral upgrades that have taken place over recent years. Theseinclude; the highly capable Dual Mode SAL/millimetric wave (mmW) seeker, enhanced autopilot, and the new insensitive munition compliant rocket motor and warhead. All combined they provide unique performance capabilities of Brimstone against the most challenging of targets. The new hardware standard will also enable the addition of further capability upgrades in the future.

Weather Challenges

 “We deployed to FMV Vidsel in Sweden. The Range crosses into the Arctic Circle which provides an exciting backdrop to conduct the trial against. The timescales of the project meant that we needed to go and conduct the trial in the winter, which presented some difficult challenges. We experienced temperatures down to -35oCthat made even simple aspects of the trial, such as fitting the launcher, incredibly difficult. Just to get to the remote part of the range we would have to drive long distances on roads covered in snow and ice. We would then have to clear all the snow drifts from the areas we are working in just to begin trials activities. The wildlife also gave us additional challenges, not least when we had to stop the trial due to a reindeer being in the target zone. I found the cold weather both physically and mentally challenging, but we are well aware of the importance of delivering on schedule and so we worked hard to continue with the trial even with the challenges the weather presented. In defence you are always mindful that the deadline isn’t just financial and reputational, it’s also required on the frontline to ensure the armed forces have the capability they need.”

Alex loading Brimstone 3

Conducting the Trial

“My role required me to write all the procedures and documentation required to conduct the trial, set up all the test equipment and then to go and conduct the trial. The skillsets involved in my role are incredibly broad –in a single day I may have to code, communicate complex technical issues, physically set up the trial and even shovel snow. We cannot complete the trial without an awful lot of teamwork. “

“Whilst in Sweden, the activities I was responsible for included missile preparation, weapon loading and as this was a ground firing, they also included firing the missile. From the day I applied to MBDA I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to fire one of the missiles, so to have the opportunity to be the first in the world to fire a new type of missile was an absolute privilege. You are very focused on conducting the procedures effectively and professionally and at all times you are aware you are testing a live missile, but it really hits you when you hear the words ‘you are cleared to fire’ over the radio. I knew that so many people had put so much work into achieving this big moment that I definitely felt the pressure!”

All the firing trials objectives were fully achieved with the missile proving, through a telemetry unit, full closed loop guidance with the seeker progressing into target acquisition and track.

Alex firing Brimstone 3

Travel Opportunities

“Wherever we are fortunate enough to be sent on trials in the world, it always feels like a great adventure. Driving onto the Range in the early hours we would be under the Northern Lights. At the weekend we’d also have some time to explore, experiencing Sweden’s stunning snowy landscapes and attractions in the Arctic Circle such as the Ice Hotel. You have to stop and remember how lucky you are to have a job that is so exciting and also allows you to see the world like this.”

Alex working underneath the Northern Lights.