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RN plans Type 45 ballistic missile defence, eyes future counter-hypersonic capability

28th February 2022 - 16:41 GMT | by Harry Lye in London

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Type 45 Destroyer HMS Diamond being loaded with Sea Viper missiles at HMNB Portsmouth. (Photo: MoD/ Crown Copyright)

The UK RN will upgrade its Type 45 destroyers to provide a ballistic missile defence capability while detailing plans for the ship's replacements to feature counter-hypersonic equipment.

Upgrades to the Sea Viper missile system aboard Daring-class Type 45 destroyers will protect the RN and wider defence community from ballistic missile threats by the late 2020s, under a newly confirmed UK plan.

A ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability will be delivered through the Sea Viper Evolution (SVE) project.

The government confirmed the plans in a written response to a UK Parliament Defence Committee report on the state of the RN.

Funding for SVE Capability 1, which would see the upgrade of missiles to the Aster Block 1 standard, was mentioned in the March 2021 Integrated Review.

An assessment phase for SVE Capability 2 would look at further enhancements to the capability, covering a greater range of threats utilising the Aster Block 1 “New Technology” missile.

The UK MoD noted: ‘This investment forms part of the strategic intent for the UK to have a maritime BMD capability and will deliver the first European warship capable of an organic “sensor to shooter” BMD intercept.’

The Aster-30 Block 1 missile features a Ku-band seeker allowing for the ‘neutralisation’ of 600km range ballistic threats, according to documents from missile-maker MBDA.

In its 2021 equipment plan, the MoD also announced that investments would be made into sensor upgrades for the Type 45 destroyers' Sea Viper missile system.

As part of missile upgrades announced in 2021, the MoD said the Type 45 would exclusively carry Aster-30 missiles in its 48 Sylver cells.

Under plans first announced in the Defence Command Paper, the UK plans to install a 24-missile Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) silo in front of the Type 45's existing Sylver cells.

‘This investment forms part of the strategic intent for the UK to have a maritime BMD capability and will deliver the first European warship capable of an organic “sensor to shooter” BMD intercept’UK MoD

In the response, the UK also announced that further BMD concepts would be ‘considered and refined’, including a counter-hypersonic weapon capability as the MoD develops the replacement for the Type 45.

A plan to replace Type 45, as represented by the Type 83 under the Future Air Defence System (FADS) project, were first announced in the 2021 Defence Command Paper.

FADS work covers the ship and the development of new sensors and weapons systems.

The MoD said hypersonic missiles are among the ‘most challenging air targets’ the RN must be able to counter, which upgrades to existing systems and future capabilities will seek to address.

The government response added: ‘Funding for the concept and assessment phase of Future Air Defence System is an essential step in building a counter hypersonic capability into our Type 45 replacement.’

The MoD also left open the possibility of equipping the Type 45 destroyer with the Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS), which the RN plans to install on the future City-class Type 26 frigate.

The response reads: ‘The RN is exploring opportunities to fit Mk 41 launchers to other classes of ships, including Type 31, to provide commonality with partner nations, improve interoperability and simplify the inventory of maritime offensive and defensive capabilities.’

Extending Mk41 deployment to the Type 45 and future Inspiration-class Type 31 frigate would give the ship’s the ability to launch the maritime missile system acquired through the Anglo-French Future Cruise/ Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) project.

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