The Royal Navy has decided to buy the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile to serve as an interim replacement for the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that are going out of service next year.
The UK defense ministry signed the contract for the missile purchase with the Norwegian government on Wednesday. UK defense secretary Ben Wallace announced the investment in the new weapon on a visit to Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Harpoon has been in service for several decades and, despite frequent upgrades and enhancements to keep pace with developments in technology, can no longer meet the demands of mid-21st century naval warfare.
The UK began the Interim Surface-to-Surface Guided Weapon (I-SSGW) program in March 2019, with the aim of finding a solution that would bridge the period between the retirement of the Harpoon and the arrival of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) the country is pursuing together with France. The long-range, heavy duty FC/ASW anti-ship missile is expected to arrive in 2028, and will carried by the Royal Navy’s next-generation Type 26 frigates.
However, the I-SSGW program was scuttled in 2021 and the UK defense ministry has now opted to buy the Naval Strike Missile Eleven for 11 Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers.
“We have a long history of defense cooperation with Norway. This new agreement cements our partnership with one of our closest allies, whilst strengthening our Royal Navy with a new surface to surface strike capability,” UK defense secretary Ben Wallace said.
“This is a significant task with an ambitious timeline. Both nations have established a designated team with a strong mandate to ensure the success of this common effort. The Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is supporting the joint team with their expertise and the planned integration on the UK vessels,” Norwegian defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram added.
NSM is a fifth-generation missile using integrated sensors and autonomous target recognition to precisely strike enemy ships and targets on land at high subsonic speeds. It can elude enemy radar and defense systems by flying at sea-skimming altitude and using evasive maneuvers.
Travelling at speeds close to Mach 1, the 400kg missile can strike at targets more than 100 miles away.
UK defense firms Babcock and BAE Systems will be responsible for installing NSM on Royal Navy ships, with the first ship due to be operational by the end of next year.