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British warships getting missile upgrade


The Ministry of Defence is to spend £405 million to upgrade the Sea Viper missile system currently being used by the Royal Navy to down drones over the Red Sea.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was quoted as saying:

“As the situation in the Middle East worsens, it is vital that we adapt to keep the UK, our allies and partners safe. Sea Viper has been at the forefront of this, being the Navy’s weapon of choice in the first shooting down of an aerial threat in more than 30 years.”

We reported previously that Britain was set to become the first European nation to operate a ‘Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence’ capability that can detect and destroy anti-ship ballistic missiles.

An initial contract worth £300m was signed with MBDA last year. The upgraded defence system, using the ASTER 30 Block 1 missile previously used only in French and Italian land systems, will help UK forces combat the increasing threats posed by anti-ship ballistic missiles at sea by developing the missile into a maritime variant.

According to the Ministry of Defence here, the UK will become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence capability that can detect and destroy Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles as it commits to a significant upgrade of Britain’s fleet of Type 45 destroyers.

“The upgraded defence system, using the ASTER 30 Block 1 missile previously used only in French and Italian land systems, will help UK forces combat the increasing threats posed by anti-ship ballistic missiles at sea by developing the missile into a maritime variant. The Ministry of Defence has placed an initial contract for this work with MBDA which, when delivered, will be worth more than £300 million and support more than 100 jobs across the UK – including highly skilled technology roles in areas such as system design and software engineering in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol and Bolton.”

Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin said:

“As we face global uncertainty, alliances and greater defensive capability are more important than ever. Joining our French and Italian counterparts will see us collectively improve the cutting-edge technology our armed forces possess. It is another example of us delivering on the commitments from the Defence Command Paper, helping protect our service personnel when faced with the most severe threats.”

The signing of the tri-national agreement is the first formal step in the upgrade of the six vessels, which will include converting existing missiles to the ASTER 30 Block 1 standard, as well as updates to the SAMPSON multi-function radar (MFR) and Sea Viper command and control missile system, under the full Sea Viper Evolution programme.

The Sea Viper Evolution programme follows the recent contract awards to introduce the Common Anti Air Modular Missile (CAMM) into the Type 45, which will see the missile outload of the platform increased from 48 to 72 missiles. You can read more about this news here.

Last year, I reported that there was concern over the lack of anti-ballistic capability on Type 45.

Concern over lack of anti-ballistic capability on Type 45

The following comes from a formal meeting of the Defence Select Committee, an oral evidence session specifically, discussing the recent defence review whitepaper ‘Defending Global Britain in a Competitive Age’. Just so you know who’s who, Dr Sidharth Kaushal is a Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and Rear Admiral Alex Burton is the former Commander UK Maritime Forces. Stuart Anderson and Mark Francois are both Conservative MP’s.

Stuart Anderson asked, referring to the Integrated Review’s ‘Defence Command Paper’:

“Do you see any particular areas of concern with what has been set out, doctor?”

Dr Kaushal responded:

“I would not necessarily state that the force structure laid out produced any particular areas of concern for me. The temporary trough in capability that the Navy will endure when the two Type-23s are retired will probably generate certain force generation issues, although in all likelihood not insurmountable ones. The Navy, however, will need to look at two key questions: first, the absence of a capability to counter anti-ship ballistic missiles on the Type-45 destroyer. That was discussed in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, as part of a wider ballistic missile defence capability for the vessel, but it was absent in this review, which I thought was noteworthy.”

Rear Admiral Burton also responded by saying “I would just reinforce Dr Sidharth’s view on the anti-ballistic missile defence, which I think was a wrong absence within the review”, he added later “one of the gaping holes within the defence review is an anti-ballistic missile defence mechanism, both at sea and ashore.”

Mr Francois pressed the point, asking “To be clear, a gaping hole, in your words?”

Rear Admiral Burton responded:

“There is a gaping hole in our ability to defend a carrier against a ballistic missile without the support of our allies, so there is mitigation there, but it is mitigation that is reliant on our allies.”

Burton later added:

“The Navy has been clear that there has been a national capability gap, for the last 10 years, at least, in an anti-ballistic missile defence capability. That can be mitigated by working alongside our allies, just like the Americans use our capabilities to mitigate their capability gaps. Firstly, this is known, and, secondly, it can be mitigated.”

You can read the full transcript here.

 



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