UK-based firms are set to develop a new missile-defence system for the Royal Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.
The Sea Ceptor system will enable frigates to fire missiles at multiple targets simultaneously, at up to three-times the speed of sound (Mach 3), protecting an area of around 500 square miles over land or sea.
International missile manufacturer MBDA has received a five-year £483m contract to build a demonstration system, sustaining around 500 jobs in the company and its supply chain at locations across the UK, including Stevenage, Filton and Lostock.
Defence procurement minister Peter Luff said: ‘The introduction of this cutting-edge missile system will not only ensure that the Royal Navy will be able to continue protecting our interests wherever they may be, but it is also highly significant in sustaining and developing the UK’s skill in building complex weapons.’
Sea Ceptor has been designed for use on the Type 23 frigate, to replace the Sea Wolf air-defence system when it goes out of service in 2016. The Royal Navy also plans to use it on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and it could be adapted for the British Army and the Royal Air Force.
First sea lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: ‘This new weapon system will equip our frigates to deal with the type of sophisticated missile threat expected in the coming decades.’
The MoD’s chief of defence materiel Bernard Gray said: ‘While we are committed to providing our armed forces with the kit they need now, it is also vital that we have one eye on the future and the threats that may face us.’
Sea Ceptor is the second major package of work launched under the Portfolio Management Agreement (PMA) that was signed between MBDA and the MoD in March 2010.
MBDA UK managing director Steve Wadey said: ‘This contract… is a highly significant step in advancing and sustaining the UK’s mastery of complex weapons technology.
‘Importantly, Sea Ceptor — ideally suited to the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, as well as a wide range of other vessels — is highly relevant to a number of navies around the world that are looking for a next-generation naval air-defence system capable of countering the growing anti-ship threat.’
MBDA is jointly owned by BAE Systems, EADS and Italian-based Finmeccanica.