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Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter tests Martlet missile for first time

Royal Navy Wildcat with Martlet missiles
Wildcat helicopter launching the Martlet missile. Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy have come a step closer to fielding a new capability as a Wildcat helicopter carried out the first-ever test of the Martlet missile system.

Blasting from a Wildcat helicopter, the new Martlet missile was this week tested on a range off the coast of Wales.

In 0.3 seconds, the missile detached from the Mk2 helicopter, accelerating to one and a half times the speed of sound.

The trials mark an important milestone in the testing of the new system which will arm the Wildcat helicopters that deploy as part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden operational deployment next year.

Martlet, also known as the lightweight multirole missile, has already been successfully launched off frigate HMS Sutherland so the latest firing was to test it in its primary role.

The firing was captured with high resolution cameras so the teams from both Thales and the Wildcat lead Leonardo Helicopters can analyse the system in minute detail.

The lightweight missile uses laser beam riding guidance technology to provide a rapid reaction to surface threats as well as surface-to-air capability against UAVs and helicopters. Weighing in at only 13kg, Martlet travels at Mach 1.5, and has a range over 6km.

Photo: Royal Navy

Commander Matt Boulind Royal Navy, the Wildcat Maritime Force Commander, said: “This test firing shows the Wildcat helicopter will be ready to help defend our Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and their strike groups for years to come.

“The Royal Navy and Army introduced Wildcat helicopters into service five years ago and the firing of the Martlet this week is a very significant milestone and represents a huge success for the joint industry and MoD team.

Managed by the Lightweight and Medium Attack Systems and Wildcat delivery teams at DE&S, and manufactured by Thales, the laser-sensor missile can be used against stationary and moving targets.

“With each helicopter capable of carrying up to 20 Martlet missiles, the Wildcats deployed will be a significant deterrent to anyone wishing to interfere with UK interests,” Philip McBride, general manager of integrated airspace-protection systems at Thales UK, said.