The UK will become the first European nation to operate a maritime ballistic missile defense capability as part of an upgrade being rolled out for the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers.
Following the upgrade, the destroyers will be capable of detecting and destroying anti-ship ballistic missiles.
The upgraded defense 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 UK defense ministry has placed an initial contract for this work with MBDA which, when delivered, will be worth more than £300 million.
“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,” defense procurement minister Jeremy Quin said.
Upgrading the defensive capability of the Type 45 fleet was committed to in the Defence Command Paper, as part of the Integrated Review last year. Being able to defend against anti-ship ballistic missiles will add to the current capability of the destroyers to defeat threats from the air.
The ministry did not provide a timeline for the upgrade and it is unclear if it will be coupled with the previously-announced investment of £500m into the upgrade of the six destroyers with the Sea Ceptor system. The introduction of Sea Ceptor, also known as CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile), is poised to bring the total number of missiles carried by a Type 45 from 48 to 72.
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 program.
“Sea Viper’s upgrade will boost the lethality of the Type 45 vessels, helping to ensure the Royal Navy remains poised to defend the surface fleet and the Maritime Strike Group against complex air threats both now and into the future,” the defense ministry announcement said.
“This demonstrates the UK commitment to delivering a cutting-edge maritime air defense capability. Sea Viper Evolution will deliver a significant uplift in capability and brings to a close many years of detailed planning and activity by the maritime air and weapons team in DE&S,” DE&S CEO Sir Simon Bollom, said.
In addition to enhancing their firepower, the UK defense ministry is also investing into upgrades to the destroyers’ power generation systems after they experienced issues while operating in warmer waters. To address this issue, the Royal Navy launched the Power Improvement Project (PIP) to fit the entire fleet of destroyers with three new diesel generators, instead of the two currently fitted, to allow them to better withstand operations in warmer waters.