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For me it is the SAAB product. It seems the Russians and Chinese are catching up with EW. I don’t think we will have any before war comes now. BZ MoD(N) again, not.


Keep in mind that the Finish instead of RBS 15 went with with Gabriel(Sea Serpent) for the new corvettes. They are users of RBS 15 mk3, but mk4 lost the competition.


TBH they are all pretty much of a muchness. Yes the Finns rejected it, but the Germans bought it, or Germany rejected Sea Serpent but the Finns bought it, if you get my drift.

The problem, and the recurring theme here, is that a capability gap appeared that shouldn’t have appeared. The role of a navy is to contest the sea. You can’t do that if you don’t have the means to damage (and sink) another’s navy. And before somebody says Astute or F35b we only have 7 SSN’s and we have no anti-ship weaponry integrated yet and the carrier can only be in one place. Some here need to elevate their thinking beyond weapon specs and video games. Last time I looked there was an awful lot of sea out there.

EDIT: I could add that ships are instruments of sea control where as submarines are instruments of sea denial (and much the same can be said about aircraft.) If you can move a ship across water you can use it to move materials and product. That’s why we have navies.

Last edited 2 years ago by X

NSM. When FCASW comes in, the ship-mounted NSM’s could be converted to be launched from vehicles like the US Marines are doing or potentially even to give the Astutes an area denial capability if the Norwegian Navy is interested in a sub-launched variant. If things start to get a bit out of control worldwide then you could potentially see the navy looking for an option for the F-35B’s and similarity between NSM and JSM might help integration.


Couldn’t we say the same about almost all of them?
LRASM can be cannister launched, then fit to Mk41 when T26 come in or cannisters to T31. F35 & P8 is done. Wouldn’t be that much harder to vehicle mount it.

RBS15 can be cannister launched, then fit to T26 or cannisters to T31. We’d have to integrate to F35 & P8 but it’s a pretty cheap missile and air launch is already part of it’s repertoire. Surely a deal can be struck for the integration to F35 & Typhoon. They already have them vehicle mounted.

I do think we’ll probably get the NSM though – it has a proven ability to integrate rapidly into a new platform – it’s the only success the LCS has had isn’t it? There will probably be some sort of sharing scheme set up too with a common stockpile for allies to access too. Not sure what would be involved to convert an NSM into a JSM. I suspect it’s easier said than done. I’m not elated about the range and punch either… It’s fine for the littorals & killing a corvette but I’d like to keep our foes as far away as possible and strike land targets from well out to sea.


I doubt you could convert a NSM to JSM, there were quite a few changes, including a dual mode seeker, repositioned air intakes etc. However you may (?) manage to convert NSM to NSM-HL, or you have the truck launch option. With the NSM-HL, the helicopter would give you some of that extra range you are looking for.

Main problem I see with systems like the SAAB missile is it’s easier to detect. Anything using active radar is giving itself away too early & it’s still subsonic so more time to engage. You can also attempt to jamb/swamp or decoy the seeker. NSM, while also subsonic, is designed to be low observable & completely passive. You can’t jamb it & is immune to most decoy systems. It’s biggest shortfall is use in bad weather, something the JSM dual mode seeker would rectify if/when they get around to retrofitting it to NSM.


Figured converting NSM to JSM wasn’t easy. Thanks for the info.
Cheers for the info on seekers too – I’m a spirited novice & hadn’t considered the cons of active radar.
“Shortfall is use in bad weather”? Bad weather is normal weather for the UK isn’t it? Am I being a fool for assuming that an ‘all-weather’ capability would be an absolutely critical/essential part of the requirement!?


While all weather utility is important, in many parts of the world, it’s the exception, not the rule. The weather in the Gulf looks nothing like the weather in the UK, for example. If they do back port the seeker, you would expect that would be after JSM starts delivery. The JSM seeker started out being the same as NSM, but part of the deal with Australia to help Norway fund the missile was incorporating a newly designed Australian passive RF seeker in with the existing IIR seeker. Hence the dual mode passive IIR/RF seeker. LRASM also uses a dual mode IIR/RF seeker, so it is definitely the right move.

David Broome

I thought the plan was to move these to the Type-31s when FCASW is deployed? If that project fails, LRASM would be great using the Type-26 VLS.


Moving them would be the logical follow on & LRASM would give the T31 some serious teeth in anti-ship and land attack.

Ha! “If” FCASW fails…. what? Like AFVG, ECA, Horizon Class, FOA etc. etc. etc. Nah! Never happen. 😉

Meirion x

The LRASM is the most expensive ASM option, at $3m a shot.


I must say that I’m a little surprised at the conclusion that Harpoon BlockII+ doesn’t have sufficiently sophisticated land attack capabilities to be in the running; I’m not saying I disagree (I don’t have enough knowledge on the subject), but just that I’ve not heard it anywhere else.
That said, of the remainder, anything except the LRASM. It’s too expensive and is only currently in air launched configuration (USN has not purchased cannister systems for it yet, and my understanding is that they’re not going to). All the others are cannister launched out of the box. I’d be tempted to take the Swedish option because of their involvement with Tempest, but I’d be happy going with the Norwegians too- maybe a bit of money thrown their way will benefit us when it comes to collaborating on weapons systems integration on P-8A (Stingray, I’m thinking of you particularly) and F-35B (JSM).

Tim Hirst

As there is already a plan to build a replacement for Stingray I can’t see money being spent to fit it to P8.


Fair point, I hadn’t really thought of that. I haven’t seen how far along they are with that though- when will it be ready?
There are a growing number of P-8A users, and not all of them like/use the Mk54 torpedo that’s cleared for it. I’d say it may still be worth it, especially if the replacement is a development of Stingray and uses a similar form factor and control systems- it may be easier to integrate down the line (I don’t know if that’s the case or not).

Tim Hirst

The replacement is only just starting so still a long way from service entry.

Gavin Gordon

I note that the Americans have resurrected VLWT in the anti-torpedo role. Still see the ‘a-t’ ambition as both a logical and necessary aspiration, albeit very challenging. Believe UK as capable as any in progressing the concept, so would trust that new Stingray will attempt to address issue to a significant degree.


Money no object, I’d go LRASM.

I do like the RBS15 though. Seems to strike the right balance of range, punch, price and capability for me.

Suspect we’ll be getting NSM though.

Meirion x

Don’t forget the integration costs for LRASM, if the USN isn’t having them aboard their vessels.


Given the future missile is vsl launched for type 26 (& type45 replacement?), I wonder if navy will go nsm as that looks a good fit for type 31use


In reality probably about 10 I-SSGW systems are required which might then be allocated on an as needed basis to the Type 23s/31s and Type 45s – which will also be totally without ship-based SSMs from around 2023. Neither Defender nor Diamond appear to have deployed with SSMs at all on the carrier deployment to the Pacific. But it appears there is no money for that. Everything seems hand to mouth and staying one step ahead of the bill collector.

james harrington

Thank you for allowing me to comment here. I don’t post often but read everyday. For the first time I am allowing politics to dictate my post and my decision to purchase the NSM. This position is based on a number of elements, and sadly not the need to give our armed forces the best kit available. These top ten somewhat anti American elements are based on inequality and are as follows: (i) After the fiasco in Kabul, (ii) the ever growing numbers of American private equity firms plundering our defence related industry, (iii) the massive tax inequity, tax avoidance, tax evasion schemes being practiced everyday in the UK by mega American so called Tech companies, (iv) the one way (west) that the so called USA / UK special relationship works, (v) The refusal by the USA to have any reciprocal purchases of UK military kit (there is still some being made here, right?), (vi) driving on the wrong side of the road, (vii) the US Tax code that forces UK residents and citizens in some cases to pay tax in the USA on earnings in the UK even if they have not lived there for 25 years (See Boris and his 100k US tax bill of 10 years ago), the outrageous costs the Americans charge for their kit, because we have no other choice, when we actually do, (viii) the lopsided extradition treaty, (ix) the repressive OxfordAZ vaccine position the Americans have taken, (x) The Ajax fiasco and as a bonus (xi) what are we going to do with the International Courts order on Diego Garcia? Of course its a lop sided one side one way relationship, and we have little or no leverage, but not buying a LM product sends a message. Buying a Norwegian or Swedish product also sends a message to our Scandinavian friends. Thank you for allowing me to post here. Look forward to any responses from readers / posters who are more well versed in these matters than I.

Michael Saul

Ajax is a European based project (o know GD is the owner, but has little relevance to the project) so you can’t blame the US for that. We build 15% of every F35, yet we only a maximum of 80 F35. We have been offered the JLTV at US army prices and the AH64E on a similar basis. Our armed forces train regularly in the US at bases and ranges far equipped than ours.

Equipment the US has purchased from the UK, Canberra, Harrier, Hawk, 81mm mortars, 105mm light howitzer, 155mm medium howitzer, sniper rifles, MT30 gas turbines off the top of my head.

Our relationship with the US is a tier one relationship on a military, intelligence and security level. It works for both sides.

james harrington

Thanks for the details. Please accept the following additional remarks. The B-57 was built in the USA before we were born. After the original Harrier went out of service in the 70’s and 80’s the newer versions were actually a product of a joint programme with MD. (Except the Sea Harrier.) The GosHawk was partly manufactured in the UK, and partly manufacterued by MD, it was all assembled in St. Louis. So while your reply is interesting in detail, it’s no where near as good or beneficial to the UK (or tier one) as your post suggests. The RR MT30 in its latest version looks to be a great success and was ordered for the Zumwalt class of ships in the USN, its a class of 3 ships. The Freedom class was also to be powered by the same marine gas turbine, but after 10 years the USN is already retiring this class. It was only about ten hulls anyway. I’m well aware that we have a close working relationship with the US military, which is to our benefit, mutual benefit one would hope. But my original post was more universal stating that the full relationship was more of a liability than an asset. That’s probably always been the case and we cannot expect anything else. But in the last few years the balance of US and UK is clearly more one sided and with little to no real tangible benefits. Its almost as if the UK is to be abused and used by the USA now. Your reply, while appreciated for its details, was limited to the military side of the issue, but you cannot ignore the other very important problems, including finance, politics, law, trade, treaties, the NHS threat, bio sciences, and more, like the plundering of our national security base inductries by PE, or the interference in Brexit.

Michael Saul

By the way the UK has the world’s second largest aerospace industry and our best export customer is the US. So rest assured we still make”stuff”


The UK doesn’t have the second largest aerospace industry in the world.


I thought it was the fourth

Dan F



Hi James

I’m late to the party, but adding to what Michael said about the F-35, on that issue, I’d argue the UK is arguably the biggest winner from the F-35 program (debacle). My reasoning is this. There are estimated to be about 2400 F-35’s to be built. Let’s say it ends up being 2000. If the UK builds 15% of each plane, it’s the equivalent of 300 “whole planes” being built. Very few aircraft get 300 exports outside of their primary country of manufacture and design.

So while the US does control a heck of a lot, it pays for the R&D mostly, tackles all the technical and political headaches, while the UK sits back and just churns out “300 planes”.
Just compare the F-35 industry to the Eurofighter and the politics and headlines. The UK side of the F-35 manufacturing has been humming along peacefully. The UK’s issue are the low numbers that will be bought, and that’s an internal UK issue.

However, I do agree that the NSM might be a good buy. It seems to be quite capable, and the article missed one thing- the weight. It’s roughly 50% lighter. That means you can carry more for the same weight, which matters on ships. Missiles and heavy calibre gun shells aren’t that great for sinking ships. Torpedoes are much better due to the location they hit. But missiles can cause mission kills, and kill experienced crew. So the better the missile, the more missiles that can hit, the better, in my amateur opinion.

Also, since 2000, the US has screwed up it’s hardware development- F-35, LCS, FOrd, Zumwalt, few new missiles. So It’s important Europe maintain it’s military industry, because the US showed it can’t be relied on, even as an overpriced arms exporter.


I understand NSM has a capability to “see” the target and “aim” at its weak-point. Radar guided RBS15/Gabriel Mk.V can do it? I’m no specialist here, but this difference might mitigate the difference of war head size.

You do not need to sink the enemy ship. In some cases, not sinking them might be even better. But, by directly hitting enemy ship’s CIC or VLS or main-engine, you can “mission kill” it. If the “enemy ship” does not look like it was = aiming at wrong target, I read somewhere that NSM can self abort the attack.

This capability will also be important for land attack. You do not want to attack a hospital beside the enemy army HQ.

What is more, commonality with USN and US Marine will enable future flexibility in many sense. If RN stop using I-SSGW and concentrate on FC/ASW in future (not likely though), USA may buy the remaining darts.

If RN is not so happy with FC/ASW (can happen), and want to keep NSM carried on 6 T45 and 5 T31 and even T32s, adoption of USN will ensure future upgrade and longer maintenance support. RBS15 is already very old missile, similar to Harpoon itself, in its origin.

Just a guess, but I think this way.


I assume that I-SSGW will not be fitted to the T45s? Seems a little poor, but what else can we expect nowadays?

Tim Hirst

By the time it’s in mass service the T45 will be in the last third/quarter of its life. By this point it’s unlikely that any big new systems will be added that aren’t just bolt on/slot in. If the RN had wished to make I-SSGW on the T45 an expenditure priority they would likely have combined the launcher fit with the adding of Sea Ceptor tubes.
It’s becoming very clear that the RN see the combat roll of the T45 as a pure task group AAW leader.


They may see the T45 role that way but reality in a Navy with very few hulls might dictate otherwise. We had to deploy a T45 operating independently in the Gulf a couple of years back when the Iranians were trying to hijack British merchant ships. There’s a mine, submarine, (reportedly) land based torpedo and SSM equipped warship threat in the Gulf which a T45 is poorly equipped to counter.
No other navy, including the US which operates escorts as part of a CBG, operates AAW warships that don’t have SSM and ASW capability

Bloke down the pub

Arguably, with the obvious exception of strategic missiles, the most expensive weapons are the ones that, having been bought, sit on a shelf and never get used. By choosing a system that is capable of attacking land targets as well as ships, the opportunity has arisen to actually save money compared to using ssn launched Tomahawks.


Deterrence is part of the job, so they will be used even just sitting in canisters. However I agree a land attack capability, especially something transferrable to the Type 31s, would be highly desireable.


Thats not really true, if you use it you need to replace it, using military assets in a hot war is almost always a zero point game. That’s why deterrent and respect are the way forward. more is better and know redlines are better that woolly commitments. Big stick soft voice.

Dick Van Dyke

All Weapons are “Interim”, just saying.


Still think we need a large missile for Merlin.

Geoff Crow

X, slightly o/t I know, but what happened to the XYZ character that initially popped up with a totally crazy attack on you? Seem to have disappeared now? Oh dear. how sad, never mind…Cheers. RBS gets my vote btw, but we don’t get a vote on this….


I don’t know. I made that comment a long time back and it was the only comment for a while. Others commented. I came back and there it was. I think it was a bot. The site owner hasn’t contacted me.

I don’t get much hassle now somebody was told not to reply to my comments. And that individual rarely comes here now.

Everything I say is said in a spirit of friendliness. Why my posts always seem to attract so much anger I don’t know.

dick van dyke

It’s the Internet for you X. Lot’s of funny people with nothing interesting to do other than Type Furiously !


I’ll be back


There’s not enough Merlins for ASW and AEW tasking. Adding anti-ship missions would just reduce that even further for little gain.




I agree with you. I’d fit half the Merlin fleet with Sea Venom and deploy thrm in T23/T26 and T45 that are not operating with the carrier group


Yes. But I mean big ‘un like the RBS-15. You could use two helicopters. One to search high and back. One closer in low and forward. You could push out a circle a few hundred nautical miles that way. Having the ship’s helicopter that can move at 150kts per hour carrying the missile is better than having it screwed to a deck moving at 30kts.


Sounds an excellent way to loose two very valuable Merlins


You don’t really understand this business do you?

dick van dyke

Waste of time fitting them on Merlins for T45’s stuck in port all the time.


There aren’t enough Merlins for T45’s have one. T45’s don’t have decent enough sonar to make carrying Merlin worth it anyway. Carrying Wildcat when detached offers some utility but not much. With only six T45 in war time they will sit neat the HVU’s at the centre of a group. T45’s hangar is really wasted deck space.


Yes but if they are part of a task group you can use use that deck space for a merlin, spreading the load a bit and giving some redundancy.


Couldnt you turn the hanger into the Gym and put VLS into the Gym that way the ships would be ‘fit’ for action.


44 Mark 1 Merlins were bought for RN. The Mk2 upgrade covered only 30.
The Mk3/4 covered a different version but has the same cockpit and less offensive capability.
So enough Merlins for T45s to have one, which was once the plan.
The trouble seems to be the sustainment fleet is almost half the active fleet.
It seems that other naval air arms find maintenance and staff shortages affect their availability too.
Thats what you get when its outsourced maintenance.

James Fennell

Looking at some recent RN images a missile for Merlin seems likely, although Sea Venom surely? Given the desire to keep Merlin going until 2040 (replacing Crowsnest with UAS to have more ASW available), I suspect Merlin will get an HM5 upgrade, following on from the HC4 programme. But surely Sea Venom will be chosen to enable Merlin to cover the force protection role of Wildcat when deployed on T26?


Could be. You would have to carry more than one. As I said above I mean something fullsize like the RBS-15.


Looking at some recent RN images a missile for Merlin seems likely

Which pictures make you think that?


Given we are talking about a limited buy here, LRASM is by far the best option, as in order to be truly effective that limited number has to be the most capable, allowing you faith in its ability to do the job whilst boosting your credibility by letting your potential foes know that although you may be small, you pack a gold standard punch they fear.


You are assuming there is enough budget for to fit LRASM to all the escorts. Doubtful.

Simon m

I wouldn’t discount the Gabriel/sea serpent offering as I understand it is designed to be as much as possible virtually a drop in for harpoon. The fins are normally a good judge of weapons systems. The optimist in me hopes the ISSGW will actually/eventually land on T31 so if it does Thales shouldn’t have any issues integrating Sea Serpent I think LCS use a version of tacticos as well so NSM may benefit from that?

It all depends on if FCASW arrives in 2028 it surely won’t be worth integrating on T26? Especially if FCASW drops in to mk41 & we are unlikely to have fired all ISSGW by then.
I wouldn’t be surprised if ISSGW is dropped either.
Unless we’ve opted for supersonic FCASW only I can’t see LRASM chosen more likely maritime strike tomahawk is closer to the price bracket?


LRASM is also currently being integrated on the F35 (external carriage only). All in all, a better across the board option.


Not on the F-35B that the UK has.


LM are currently integrating LRASM on to the F35, B & C included. In addition it is also being integrated on to the P8A Posiedon. The UK could significantly enhance its capabilities by purchasing the missile for use on our frigates and aircraft.


Not on the F-35B


Yes, for external carriage on the F35B. LRASM cannot be carried internally on the B.


No, not on the F-35B. No customer requirement so not being qualified.


Another plus for the Gabriel/Sea Serpent is that it is the only one with UK manufacturing/support operation. An offer to assemble in Belfast might just tip the balance in their direction?

Juliensas Teanvag

The FEDS are watching everyone. We want to talk to…


Are the Norwegians planning to integrate NSM onto their Poseidon fleet?


Great question, considering how closely we will operate our two P8 fleets, seems like a no brainer if they are integrating. What are the yanks putting on their p8s after harpoon?

Mike O

I only know the basics with anti-ship missiles. Probably the same as most people playing top trumps with wiki stats. But what is it about Harpoon that makes it (semi)obsolete? Are the sensors just not able to deal with modern countermeasures or is it the desire to focus more on land attack?

dick van dyke

It’s not Euro 5 compliant.


Harpoon lacks the ability to discriminate between one of ours vs one of theirs. In crowded waters that’s a problem.

Supportive Bloke

The version in current UK service is limited in that respect.

The new(er)est version does have the ability to cross reference to a library.

It is more of an issue – can it discriminate between between opposition military and random civilian? That is the nightmare scenario.


We are discussing the in service Harpoons are we not?

P.S. Library of what?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ron5
Supportive Bloke

Library of radar returns, image profiles, IR profiles, EM emission profiles etc…….that is how positive target identification works. If you have two parameters that match you have a positive match. There will be other factors that are passively measured that are not advertised.

I specifically referenced the upgraded versions which are much more sophisticated.


Imaginative but inaccurate.

Harpoon guidance works by the missile using GPS navigation to fly to a location where it uses its radar to pinpoint the target. Hopefully a ship.

Newer versions have more robust GPS navigation that can operate under levels of jamming/spoofing and can be updated during flight to attack moving targets.. The end engagement radar has some ability to distinguish a ship to hit rather than an island or buoy. It has no ability to determine the type of ship or its nationality. That was the job of the launching platform.

No “image/IR/EM etc” libraries.

Supportive Bloke

My goodness such certainty. Clearly you must work making these things? Like you knew the T31 armament for sure a few months back…

Let’s start with a few checkable facts:

Block I – inertial guidance -> radar
Block II – GPS with inertial fallback -> radar
Block II + – as per block II & Incorporates the JDAM guidance package as well

Source Boeing website.

JDAM – latest iteration – uses IR and/or Laser and/or GPS (declared) as well as “other sources” deliberately vague.

Hint: JDAM has a swarm mode – inference: individual missiles cannot be being cued from mother. There has to be a degree of autonomy to the package.

Source Boeing website.

It is also pretty widely advertised, by USAF, that JDAM can home onto a specific spot on a target without a point laser being directed at it. How does it do that? Probably LIDAR imaging – that is a bit of extrapolation, I will admit, but not much of a reach given what is known and declared.

I am also sure you must be aware that any radar homing system is inherently passive as well as active so it is not just bonging away, at full volume, giving its location away. And passive is inherently EM.

So I have no real idea why you think what I am saying is BS unless you as so soft minded that you think the USN has deployed a totally dumb weapon on most of its surface fleet that can be defeated by a 12 year old with crystal set and an amplifier.

Or do you think that the multiple declared sensors do not feed back to any kind of computer in the missile (or at mother)? I’m mystified. Fused data is a thing – the thing really.

NATO reference libraries of profiles, images, EM etc have existed for decades and a lot of effort goes into keeping them up to date. Once you have the sensor data cross checking it with a library is actually a relatively low effort task on any processors.

Harpoon is a friggin big heavy missile with easily the space to house anything that you would want in a modern missile guidance system.

The only thing I can conclude from your comment is that you have zero clue about how this sort of stuff is actually screwed together or what is likely to be inside it. But there again, I wouldn’t be the first person to point that out.


Once again displaying your seemingly boundless imagination.

The “plus” in the “Harpoon II plus” refers to the ability to update the target location during flight. Harpoon II introduced the GPS based guidance system.

No lasers, no IR, no ECM. No libraries. Just an active radar for the final phase.

Works fine as long as the host platform correctly identifies the target before missile launch and the target doesn’t have the capability to distract or spoof Harpoons active radar.

If you want something more sophisticated then buy a modern missile like NSM as carried by the LCS.

Supportive Bloke


I would try reading this advertorial that has clearly been briefed by ELBIT:-

ELBIT collaborated with Boeing on the L-JDAM project and also on the Harpoon enhancement which Boeing state came directly from that project.

The article talks about optical and electro-magnetic image recognition.

“With the electro-optical kit, a camera is fitted to the tip of the bomb and “sees” the target. An electro-magnetic homing head includes a radar, fitted to the bomb, the rocket, or the missile.”

ELBIT market their version as the LIZARD family.

In my experience what ELBIT are excellent at is taking mid level mature sensor technologies and melding them together, using some clever thinking, to produce something very cost effective and formidable systems.


That article has absolutely nothing to do with Harpoon, or Harpoon’s guidance system.

I suspect you are confusing Boeing reusing an existing GPS navigation system in Harpoon II with all your guff about lasers, IR & libraries Or maybe you are just confused..

Supportive Bloke

OK now we all know that you don’t know.

Boeing have publicly stated that the Harpoon enhancement is the LIZZARD system from ELBIT. That is not me speculating but Boeing stating.

The article is about the LIZZARD system as it provides the best public domain summary of LIZZARD.

ELBIT /IAI also publicly reference their involvement in Harpoon enhancement.


I give up. You’re way out in the weeds and I’m going to leave you there.


Yes that’s the war losing event, dumb heavyweight ASM killing a few thousand people on a cruise ship.

smaller and smarter is likely what the RN will need and use, barring some bizarre WW3 total war type event, and let’s be honest we would all be buggered at that point anyway.

Robert Blay

And that is why large anti ship missiles are not the biggest priority for the RN.

Supportive Bloke

Ummm, but the latest versions can deal with these issues?

I suspect you responded to my top comment and not my expansion on it?

I’d agree that big dumb missiles are an ROE nightmare: but that is not the conversation at all……..


I expect he ignored your second comment seeing that it was BS.


Surely the recently updated ones can?


If Harpoon misses it goes into a racetrack search pattern and targets any ship it can find.


To be fair you can learn from wiki, sometimes.

Michael Saul

Excellent article, may the most cost effective option win.


That’s governmentspeak for cheapest.

Which is do nothing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ron5

FFBNW – the politicians first choice

Supportive Bloke

In all fairness this actually about replacing an obsolete weapon with a state of the art weapon – so I’d be a bit more positive about that.

Up-arming is no longer a fantasy fleeter armchair fantasy. It is RN reality. T45 is also being up armed with 48 Viper, 24 Ceptor and maybe 8 canister that is a very potent warship and it is not total fantasy as the canister systems will be integrated into the BAE CMS for T23 in interim service. The interim IAShM may well be extended in scale of deployment as this was allowed for in the various invitations to tender/expressions of interest.

A program also exists to put weapons in the T26 VLS.

Glass Half Full

If the MoD believe they can keep extending Harpoon OSD until 2027 and also expect IOC on FCASW in 2028 for T26, then it seems there is little incentive for an interim solution, unless they can get one at very low cost including integration. Especially if a canister launch FCASW IOC for T45/T23 might be achievable earlier than the MK41 launch 2028 IOC for T26.

However, if a very low cost solution is possible then that might support/justify a longer life for the I-SSGW. This might translate to OSD for at least the T23s and perhaps also the T45s. As the older platforms age out, extended life might also support transfer to some T31/32 platforms that might not get FCASW. That would be in addition to the insurance of having a solution in case FCASW is delayed. Supporting both missiles over a long period would complicate logistics and training though.


A bun fight in the South China Sea may give the MoD(N) some incentive.


Regardless of IOC of FC/ASW in 2028 (even if no delay = unlikely), I-SSGW will be used at least until the last T23 goes off (2036), or until the last T83 comes in (in place of the last T45), which will be 2050 or so (*1). If re-used for T31 (T32), then, even longer.

If I-SSGW it not needed, then “only a few T26 carrying FC/ASW” in the fleet, will even mean “FC/ASW itself is not needed in RN”. So, I think it is “must”.

“Supporting both missiles over a long period would complicate logistics and training though.”

Understandable argument. In that case, NSM which has high commonality with JSM (to be equipped with F35B, and/or P-8) will be not a bad option ?

A dark horse will be, reduction in land-attack capability (limited to GPS-only) and adopt Harpoon blk-II+. Continuity to current Harpoon, commonality to P-8, cheap solution with minimum overlap with FC/ASW. As it is cheap, it will be able to be carried on all T23, T31, T45 and even T26 (as a cheap and simple option, in addition to up to 24 FC/ASW).

-*1 : Considering continuous/sustainable complex ship building program, the last T45 will be there until the last T83 delivery, which is only a few years before 1st T26 replacement.

Glass Half Full

To consider where I-SSGW fits in we should probably first consider the possible scope and capability of FCASW.

If the program follows the French SCALP use model, which seems likely, then it will be air, surface and sub-surface launch capable. It might be super-sonic or sub-sonic or a family that includes both, leveraging commonality where practical. That doesn’t necessarily mean all combinations of platform and missiles would be created or deployed.

FCASW is likely to be a LRASM class weapon in size, with similar costs, given its replacing Storm Shadow. We will qualify FCASW for F-35B and/or loyal wingman, not just Typhoon, since we’ll presumably want air launched land attack from CSG at a minimum. We would probably also qualify for submarine launch to replace TLAM in service. So RN FCASW use isn’t just about T26. We will also have Typhoons/Tempest in support of naval action for use in the North Atlantic, North Sea, Norwegian Sea and perhaps as far north as the Greenland and Barents Seas, aside from any deployments beyond the UK and the use in an air-launched land attack role.

So IMV its not a case of “a need or not” for AShM, but instead a case of how, when and where we spend the budget to get the best and broadest capability, in the context of the existing and projected threat scenario. We rarely fit Harpoon today, presumably because we determine the risk level to be low. We have Martlet, Sea Venom and Sea Ceptor AShM capability coming on stream, primarily for low end, non-peer threats. So its then a judgment on the timing/urgency for having a modern heavy AShM and a ship launched land attack capability.

By 2028 we should have 2 T26 operational and a further 1-2 T26 in the water. So there is a question as to whether it makes sense to go through the expense of adding I-SSGW for T23 if we have managed to keep Harpoon supported through to 2027 … and if we have kept Harpoon supported that long then it seems possible it might be supported another year or two if necessary and then dropped from T23? IIRC we are only planning on 5 sets of I-SSGW anyway.

For T45 in the same time-frame, it would make sense to fit canister launch FCASW rather than I-SSGW (the latter not being in the plans anyway) since T45s are likely to operate into the 2040’s and conduct escort operations outside the AShM air cover of a CSG. I think it unlikely we will be operating T45 through to 2050, that would be 40 years from Duncan’s launch.

Harpoon II+ might be low cost, low implementation risk and easy to integrate if extending current stock is impractical/low RoI, but I suspect the RN might be thinking that if they have to go through any integration and test work, then they might as well get something more capable and with a longer operational life to it into inventory for future options/flexibility. In which case NSM or Sea Serpent seem the most likely candidates. Its interesting that the USN went for NSM and the Finnish went for Sea Serpent over existing Harpoon and RBS-15 use in their fleets. Perhaps both saw better littoral performance from their new missile choices as a critical requirement, something we might also see value in over Harpoon II+.


Thanks a lot for thoughtful comment.

I understand we have three different points in basic standpoint.

1: I’m sure FCASW will 99.9% delay than 2028. Easily 2030, or even more.

2: I’m sure, FCASW will be VERY expensive.

It is aiming at highly capable missile. Good sensor, long range, stealth, secured two-way-datalink, etc. Nothing bad, but it means it will be a silver bullet, optimized for top tier warfare. Not surprised being twice as expensive as LRASM, I think. The high unit cost will mean, much less number of missiles will be procured. And, most of the war is NOT against top tier.

From these reasons, I think there is a big room for I-SSGW. Very big room. Other than these two points, I have almost no argument against your analysis. Just much more late and much more expensive.

3: The last T45 must be there until 2050, I think. This is because the next complex warship after the last T83 is, T26 replacement. HMS Glasgow, T26-hull1, will commission in 2027. Even in 2050, it is still only 23 years “young”. Even start counting her age from “delivery to RN” = 2025, she is still 25 years old. If RN disband the last T45 in, say, 2040 (only 27 years old), still the 1st T26 is 13 years from commission and 15 years from delivery… Expecting its replacement coming is unlikely, I think.

Then, the only choice will be, abandone/long-gap of complex ship building, which I think is not a solution for UK.


Last edited 2 years ago by donald_of_tokyo
Glass Half Full

Likewise. Always interesting debating points with you.

Ref 1: I agree that a delay seems likely based on history, since every major project including missile development seems to suffer it. The unusual aspect to FCASW is that the IOC dates were pulled in to 2028 for T26, when the House of Commons answer was provided. Up to that point 2030 or later seemed to be the only dates mentioned.

This might be explained by the following:-

SPEAR Capability 4 was supposed to make upgrades to Storm Shadow to sustain it to the OSD, but it seems that program was cancelled, or at least ‘went away’ as originally envisioned. This may be because focus was put on SPEAR Capability 5 earlier instead, which is the Storm Shadow replacement, also known as FCASW. This might have accelerated parts of the program, especially if a sub-sonic variant of FCASW is more of a spiral development from Storm Shadow.

The engineering to develop a sub-sonic version of FCASW, heavily leveraging Storm Shadow might have appeal for the French, because they might be able to leverage their current investment for their sub and Sylver A70 launched MdCN. The UK would use this sub-sonic version for similar applications, qualifying for Mk41 and TLAM replacement. Leveraging Storm Shadow might also keep costs down for the sub-sonic variant.

The longer term, more expensive variant of FCASW, sharing components where possible, would be the supersonic version. Which in addition to land attack and ASuW might also be used for long range attack against high value air targets such as air tankers and AEW.

So FCASW becomes two missiles with two quite different capability sets, that meets both parties interests.

Ref 2: Expensive? Yes, probably at least as much as LRASM for sub-sonic variant. A supersonic variant might be in the SM-6 class costs.

I don’t see the use of different missiles for top tier versus non-top tier conflict. Any situation requiring a response beyond the use of Martlet, Sea Venom or Sea Ceptor, requiring something like NSM, would IMV justify use of FCASW. We won’t be playing around at that level.

Additionally, if I-SSGW is similar in cost to NSM at ~£1.6M (in other words it is NOT very low cost) and FCASW sub-sonic is at the LRASM price point of ~£2.8M, prices as quoted in the article, then I don’t think that difference would justify integration costs for I-SSGW, provided current Harpoon can be extended in use. Carrying both in stock, with the extra logistics and training complications that would entail, just compounds those costs.

Regarding T45 OSD. You are assuming that BAES remains in the shipbuilding business as a sort of national champion (something I know you have suggested the UK should do), which has the priviledge of being guaranteed 100% MoD business only. Also guaranteed the most valuable surface fleet naval contracts in addition to its submarine monopoly.

I don’t see that, based on Ben Wallace’s comments to the House of Commons Defence Committee. His comment was that the govt. is giving ship yards 20 years to diversify so that they are not 100% dependent on MoD business. If BAES win the T83 build contract then they’ll have that 20 years.

If BAES don’t diversify then they may stay in the ship design business, but manufacture will be placed at other UK yards, assuming BAES wins future design contracts. Much as they proposed doing for Leander. Depending on the size of T83 it may even make sense to build in Rosyth anyway, where there is room for the ‘shed’ to be extended to avoid building in modules.

The MoD is NOT going to work its ship building schedule around BAES anymore, when in 20 years it may have Rosyth, Cammell Laird, H&W (Belfast and Appledore) and possibly others, capable of building entire ships or modules. All of the latter would also be engaging in commercial business and possibly even some small level of foreign naval ship manufacture, the latter being something BAES seems to have no interest in pursuing either.

Edit: Sorry that ended up a bit long.

Last edited 2 years ago by Glass Half Full

Thanks again.

1: Delay whatever, is my point.

With 5-sets of I-SSGW, RN was planning to have 5 T23ASWs and 3 T26 batch-1 carrying SSM around 2030. Without I-SSGW, this will be only 3 T26.

# I-SSGW going to T31/T45 is, only after this period.

I do not expect long-range subsonic FCASW version having a canister version. Who will pay for it?

RN has been very “negative” against SSMs. They might pay for subsonic version (mainly land attack) integration into Mk.41 (and Sylver VLS), but unlikely for canister version, I guess. At least, after integration into F35B = far away…

# French will go with super-sonic version to be canister carried.

Here is the “very large room” for I-SSGW, for example. So, either such a huge gap in SSM capability is acceptable (possible, sadly) or being optimistic about the introduction schedule of FCASW (we differ here). This is my point-1.

2: If LRASM is £2.8M, I am not surprised to see FCASW long-range version to be £4M or so. Even if it is as cheap as ~£3.2 = twice of that of NSM unit cost, this “factor of two” makes big difference, I guess.

I agree the cost is not the primary cause of my pushing I-SSGW, it is rather the schedule (item-1). But, the twice difference in cost supports the importance of I-SSGW.

“Nearly twice” cost difference examples: T31 frigate vs T26 frigate, C-17 vs A400, F22 vs F35, ASRAAM vs AMRAAM, …

3: On UK ship building industry, it may be long document so not in detail here (^^;)

But, I am not so optimistic on UK ship building’s future. It just looks like they are saying the whole world is stupid, and only UK ship-building industries and HMG are clever, without any technical nor industrial expertise.

For example, UK ship building industry is NOT going for “a single mega yard” (understandable, but critical). This directly means, it will lose efficiency and inevitably results in high cost (100% sure). Then, it MUST have some technology to overwhelm this disadvantage (see Austal), but are there any?

Keeping BAE Clydes’ “team” (it can be sold to Babcock if they want, I do not care), is critical for UK/RN warship future, I strongly think so. This is my point.


Glass Half Full

Ref 1:
We’re probably looking at 4 T26 operational by 2030, so 5-sets of I-SSGW doesn’t make so much sense in that context.

France will probably pay for canister launch, assuming both parties don’t share costs, since there is a major export opportunity. France will want to sell FCASW to its legacy Exocet customers. There’s also going to be a large market of Harpoon users looking to update. Not everyone needs, wants or is likely to want to pay for supersonic ASM. All parties will benefit from higher production numbers to help reduce costs.

Ref 2:
We’re just guessing on costs of course. If MBDA can spiral develop out of Storm Shadow/SCALP for a sub-sonic version then costs may be significantly less and delivery date earlier than originally envisioned. But even if that isn’t the case, I don’t think your 2x cost argument really holds up, using large capital costs for ships and aircraft. You’re ignoring the carrying costs for two different missiles versus one, on what is likely to be a relatively small inventory of missiles overall. What we would refer to colloquially as penny wise, pound foolish.

Ref 3:
What you are not considering is the UK desire for a broader ship building industry, beyond just for MoD. That is one of the goals of the NSS. The UK is actually quite successful with luxury yacht manufacturers such as Princess and Sunseeker, the UK super yacht industry employs around 5,000 people. But the UK govt. is seeking to build a more robust commercial and military ship and offshore energy equipment building and servicing industry for larger vessels.

Sorry, but the following is a rather ridiculous comment – “It just looks like they are saying the whole world is stupid, and only UK ship-building industries and HMG are clever, without any technical nor industrial expertise.” The UK just built two large carriers using yards across the UK for block building. That shows there is an inherent regional capability. It just needs to be re-built around a more robust and sustainable business model of both commercial and MoD business.

Distance from BAES Clyde to Babcock Rosyth is about 70km, so employee mobility wouldn’t be a major issue.



Ref1: FCASW will have BOTH super sonic version and long range version, am I right ? (I think no one knows the answer, but there are many such rumor). In that case, super sonic version will have canister launcher, but subsonic long-range version? This was my point.

If, FCASW is only for long-range-subsonic, then I agree France will introduce canister version.

Ref2: Fingers crossed to make FCASW cheap. On logistic costs, NSM has a merit that, it has big commonality with JSM, which will be used in F35B.

Note. Overall, I am not strongly against your point of merits on FCASW. But, I do think it will inevitably introduce huge gap in RN capability for both land-attack and anti-ship-missile. I think this gap is significant, you think it is negligible, I guess?

# another idea is to “save the day” (actually “one or two decades”) with Harpoon blk 2+.

On other points, I see no big difference among you and me. Thanks.

Ref3: UK shipbuilding industry do have expertise on building complex warship. And, that has only little relation to building a merchant ship in cheap. On commercial shipbuilding side, UK has no specific strong point. Nothing ridiculous here. These two are very very different technology, and building commercial ships in cheap is very very industrially “not easy”.

Super yacht is good point. It has some future. But, it cannot support all shipyards, Appledore, Clyde, Rosyth, CL, and H&W. Actually, super yachts are built elsewhere. UK also has some highspeed boat industry. But, they have their own fab.

Still I see no expertise/technology in UK to fight and win in Merchant ship building, which is one of the most competitive industry in the world. Can UK beat South Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Fincatierri shipyards in cost? How?

It must NOT be the cost. It must be technologies, to keep the UK shipyards alive in commercial market. Investing on such thing must be the first to come, before re-activating many small, inefficient, distributed shipyards.

Glass Half Full

Ref 1: My post below (link) shows a MBDA illustration reflecting two concepts for supersonic and sub-sonic. This reflected a situation where France reportedly wanted supersonic while the UK wanted subsonic capability. AFAIK it is still rumors as to whether both projects proceed or only one does.

Ref2: No argument from me that NSM/JSM is a very attractive solution with a lot of the integration costs paid for by others. I just look at the both the RAF and the RN, where there seems to have been a policy to only support a small range of different weapons, typically with a higher end solution that supports variants, examples like Aster, Spear, ASRAAM/CAMM for commonality within and across the services to help reduce costs.

I do believe that if the RN extend use of Harpoon to 2027 then the gap to FCASW will be small if it exists at all. I also suspect the risk assessment is that a peer conflict involving surface launch ASM use in the 2020’s is low for the RN, given Russia is the primary threat for the UK, not China. Against Russia we would be more likely to want air launched ASM. But we could probably do a lot of damage with just Spear and Spear EW in a saturation attack, degrading sensors if not worse, for a follow up of Harpoons from P8 (all this ignores allies’ contributions including Norway with their NSM/JSM). Also for the low end we’ve gone from having nothing to Martlet, Sea Venom and Sea Ceptor.

Ref3: I’m sure we can go back and forth on UK shipbuilding but it is perhaps worth making some additional points.

The UK has no expectation to be competing in large cruise ship, bulk carrier, tanker, and container ship manufacture against the leading manufacturers in the world. Either in size or number of vessels. The UK doesn’t need a large ship building industry, or to be building large ships, to support enough commercial work to complement available MoD work in order to support a viable, albeit small, industry.

Ship yard work doesn’t have to be just building ships, it can also be servicing, repairing and re-fitting ships. For example, Infrastrata/H&W is working to establish a cruise liner service capability, as a component of their business model, along with off shore energy work. A&P have the ability to build ship modules occasionally, but focus primary on MoD service and repair work and the commercial marine sector.

UK built super yachts are just an illustration that it is possible for the UK to be successful at a modest level competing on a world stage in boat and ship building, in markets where it makes sense to do so. Those markets won’t be mass producing ships or boats. They are likely to be more specialised low volume markets.

For the UK it is very unlikely there will be one silver bullet segment of the marine market that can be exploited. Each company needs a strategy to build a portfolio of different commercial marine businesses, they have 20 years to do so.


Thanks. Just optimistic or pessimistic, I guess.

Only thing I do care is, enabling a single frigate to carry FCASW on 2028 (which is highly likely to delay till 2030, for me) as a replacement for Harpoon SSMs originally carried on 13+4 = 17 frigates, is not a “small gap” for me.

Exactly the same to disbanding the fleet of 6 (originally 7) E-2 now, while the 3 E-7 fleet will need another 2-3 years to come (and still only 3 is planned).

On shipbuilding, I still think the last T45 must be there until 2050. It is must. Very very high risk (for me) to believe any of the UK ship builders can survive the ~10 years gap. Again, just optimistic vs pessimistic.

Last edited 2 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

An out of the box solution may be from the Aster 30 upgrade that MBDA are implementing. Aside from converting all the Aster 15s to 30, the missile is also getting an avionics update. This includes a new replacement active radar, replacing Ku band with Ka band. This means the new higher operating frequency radar will provide better target resolution along with clutter rejection. If the rumours are true and that some of the Aster 30s will also be getting the larger Block 1NT booster, this will put is in a similar ballpark to the SM6 with regards to range, although Aster has a higher top speed, so could be further still.

But, could it also be multipurpose like the SM6 that not only provides air defence but can attack both ship and land targets?

Glass Half Full

Aster’s warhead is very small though, ~1/4 that of SM-6 and ~1/8 that of NSM so probably only a mission kill weapon against frigate/destroyer and larger targets? Maybe not even that unless it can be accurately targeted for effect. The speed of impact and possible thermobaric effect from unused fuel might change that?

Supportive Bloke

That is the thing for AAW: you don’t need a Big Bang just to distribute the shrapnel so it mashes the aircrafts engines and soft bits.

Attacking ships or land targets is a bit different, as you say, a big lump is needed.

Supportive Bloke

TBH that way I see this going is that IAShM goes T23 -> T31 and that Harpoon gets fully upgraded for T45 to give it better teeth very quickly.

It would make sense of the announcement re Babcock.

And also mean there was enough canisters and missiles for most of the escort fleet.

As @GB has said on here before Harpoon upgrade is a very low risk upgrade path.

Glass Half Full

Perhaps although we have only specifies a requirement for 5 sets for T23 currently, so no T45. You can see my other thoughts immediately above in response to Donald if interested.


Are we the only blue water navy that has almost all our ships without anti shipping missiles?


I think so. And some sensors. And other stuff. Still we have two nice big aircraft carriers. Hardly any aircraft for them, but nice and big.


And the aircraft on them don’t have a proper stand off land attack or anti-ship missile. Plus we have a second rate AEW solution using a helicopter which also removes the chopper from being available for ASW


1. Not on the QE they don’t. She carries enough Merlins for both ASW and AEW.

2. The escorting Astute can sink any enemy warship that exists today.

3. 5th gen F-35B’s have less of a need for stand off weapons and the UK’s will be getting Spear 3 in the near future anyway.


Crowsnest is flawed. We barely have enough cabs for it. And the same for ASW. The rest of the ‘fleet’ has been stripped for this deployment. All of them have a growing number of air frame hours with no replacements on the horizon.

And the Astute can also be sunk. That is why a carrier group has layered defences. Opfor lack experience not training nor platforms. One Astute a summer does not make.

You really have to stop believing the hype about F35b. It is a competent piece of equipment, but it is not a game changer.


There’s 30 Merlins capable of deploying Crowsnest. 10 Crowsnest kits were procured. Ample.

The Merlin replacement program is a joint European program that the UK is currently leading and its schedule is to replace the Merlins (as well as other types) in the 2030’s.

The feedback from RAF, RN, USAF, USMC, & USN crews are that, in fact, the F-35 is a game changer. I doubt if you are aware of its full capability. They are.


You really shouldn’t believe all the hype about the F35, the USN have only just deployed the C varient to see on the Carl Vinison early this month, then only in small numbers!
It really isn’t the game changer the hype is making it out to be. It’s not a true Stealth platform ala F22/B2, it’s short legged with a average payload, slow and has a poor thrust to weight ratio (1 engine only), along with other limitations (NAO report), makes it a poor aircraft in terms of manoeuvrability. It has got a excellent sensor suite which helps offset some of its difficencies, but game changer – no, that would have been the F22.


The F35b is superior to the f18, better range, stealth, avionics, ect, and the f18 super hornets not exactly bad. That’s the comparison I make when looking at f35b.

Robert Blay

Do a little research, and you will soon see that the F35 is a game changer in terms of overall capability. Read what the pilots say about it, what it has achieved in Red Flag exercises ect. You are looking at top trump stats, which have little to do with real world capability.


Evening Robert, good to see you on here too. Got to say that I have to disagree with you ref F35 capabilities – and yes I have done my research on the subject, which doesn’t include comments from any pilots good or bad.
As Cam stated above,the F35 is far superior to the F18, but when the bar is low, that’s not difficult!
F18 replaced both the F14 and A6 in USN, it is inferior to the F14 in every respect (age notwithstanding), in so far it’s slower has less trust, shorter legged, and has a smaller payload- it’s not as good an air superiority fighter as the F14.

It replaced the A6 in the attack role where again it’s shorter legged, carries less payload, not exactly seller performance wise as an all rounder!!!

The F 18 is totally outclassed by all examples of Soviet SU 30 class and it’s variants in terms of power, range, payload and manoeuvrability. In short it would lose any form of engagement against these aircraft.

Your favourite aircraft -F35, yes it’s got Stealth features, but is not a true Stealth airframe like the F22, it’s only really stealthy over the front 30 degrees, after that it losses some Stealth due to its shaping. It is also not stealthy across all radar frequency bands, unlike the F22 – fact. Thus suffers from detection by enemy radars like all 4th gen fighters, albeit to a lesser degree, so not really invisible to radar!

It undoubtedly has a very impressive sensor suite, which it relies upon to keep out of trouble – it needs too as it has relatively poor manoeuvrability when compared to aircraft such as F22 and SU30 series of aircraft which it would be up against. Yes they are not as stealthy, but, they are faster, longer legged more manoeuvrable and carry a greater payload!

The Soviets have always built good radars and ECM systems, so it would be fair to assume they are v close in capability to what we have – pure folly to assume otherwise!

They also carry far more weapons then the F35 can, the Soviets tend to make many examples of the same modal fitted with different sensors, in AAM they commonly carry both IR and Radar variants. The problem we have, is that their BVR missiles have a longer range then ours Weo Meteor which the US didn’t buy and is only now attempting to produce a longer range version of the AMRAAM!

In a bun fight said F35 whilst being stealthier then SU 30 opponents would be out ranged by these opponents, whose capabilities aren’t that far behind. They are not as fast, or as manoeuvrable and on a one to one basis carry far less weaponry. In such a encounter. the F35 would need to be lucky and get the killing shot in every time, while it’s opponent only needs to get lucky once!

The F22 is a far better platform, then the F35, it’s faster, goes further more manoeuvrable, stealthy and can do everything the F35 can and more, only better. It’s what the USA should have produced, sold to UK, CAN,AUS, JPN and Israel. The US would then have brought more then their 186 airframes – that would be the game changer.


F35, yes it’s got Stealth features, but is not a true Stealth airframe like the F22, it’s only really stealthy over the front 30 degrees, after that it losses some Stealth due to its shaping. It is also not stealthy across all radar frequency bands, unlike the F22 – fact.”

Where exactly are you getting this information? Unless you have access to the classified data, this is just wild speculation on your part. Based on everything I’ve read, stealth is so much more than shaping and is a concept which very few people understand. Stealth also includes material, EW, mission planning, deception, and tactics and those are never disclosed publicly.


Its not classified material, nor is it idle speculation, its all open source material freely available on the net, you just have to look!!!
Agree, stealth is a concept that includes more then just shaping and materials, bot the info is frerly available if you care to look.


Would you care to share any of those sources?


Yes fella, no problems – try ‘air power australia’, its an independent military/policy think tank. It primarily focus on Australias needs when it came to replacing their F111 aircraft, and why the F35 isnt the answer for them. It covers a wide range of topics to support their conclusions. Have a read, it will take you several months to trawl through all the submissions – good luck.

Robert Blay

Evening pal. F22 is superb, know doubt about that. But it’s very very expensive, to buy and operate, and in tech terms, is a generation behind the F35. The situational awareness capabilitys and sensor fusion of the F35 and it’s ability to share with other 5th gen and 4th gen aircraft and warships make it’s capabilities far greater than the sum of it’s parts. And that is what wins the fight. Performance is still very important, but situational awareness is king. Typhoon will do the heavy lifting for the RAF, while the F35 is the silent assassin that will sneek through the back door and slit the enemies throat . It’s a totally different way of fighting, and as exercises are proving, the f35 is deadly, and is only at the beginning of it’s development cycle. And the Russian aircraft you mention won’t even know we’re the F35 is to get missiles away. Stealth is much more than just airframe shaping, the electronic signature is just as important, and the F35 gives the pilots all the information they need to manage the overall signature of the aircraft in any given situation. Wars are not won in 1v1 or 2v2 combat, it’s managing the overall battle space, and in that respect, F35 excells. And it does have very good performance, not F22 or Typhoon performance, but with ASRAAM, HMS and very high alpha maneuverability, it can hold it’s own against anything. F35 can hit it’s top speed of 1.6M with a full weapon load and can still pull 9g. With an F16 for example, as soon as you strap on the external tanks, it’s limited to 5.5g, and would struggle past 1.4M. Not so impressive. And we can take all this capability to sea, which is an enormous capability. I don’t mean to sound like a F35 salesman. But the aircraft is much more than simple figures and stats.


I’ve read interviews in the past from red flag type exercises where 4th gen aircraft pilots have stated that they had no idea that they were been tracked and targeted by an f35 and only knew that they were “killed” when the exercise controllers told them that they were.

Those same pilots have also said that even when they were close enough to detect an f35, the stealthy features of the f35 made it next to impossible for them to get a good missile lock. What is even more important and most often goes overlooked is combat is rarely 1 v 1 as in movies. There are so many other enablers, AEW, ISR data from other platforms that decide who will dominate an engagement before it even takes place.

Finally, follow the money. All the countries buying the F35 despite the high cost and developmental problems and as soon they get to see what it can do they can’t buy it quick enough. These people are not fools. They have seen the classified data, they know the current and future threats and they seem to all agree that the f35 (with flaws and all) is still the most capable platform out there.

Robert Blay

Exactly mate. Airforces wouldn’t be buying it if it didn’t live up to it’s promise. Like you say, despite the early cost overruns and delays. The RAF is seeing first hand it’s capability against our own very capable Typhoons. Together, they will provide outstanding capability. Especially when Typhoon receives Radar2 and the SPEAR family of weapons.


Yes, the point is the sensor fusion and situational awareness of the F35 means it will never get into a fair fight with a more capable airframe. Pretty much everything I’ve ever read about air combat from WW1 onward is the pilot who knows what’s going on first, kills the enemy before they have a clue, there are no fair fights and that’s what the F35 brings overwhelming levels of capability around knowing first.


Hi fella, cheers for the reply, appreciate that other contributors may have a different take on things, but thats what makes debates on here interesting. Different points of views, experiences, all adds to the learning process and keeps things in focus.

Personally despite what i’ve posted, I’m not anti F35 – really i’m not! Equally I’m not really pro F22 either, but just happen to think its a far better platform then the F35.

Yes it is v expensive, and costs big amounts to operate. If and it is an if, we had gone down the line of buying the F22, all told the US might well have built say between 1250-1500 if supplied to certain allies too. Scale of economies would have brought its price down, just like with the F35. What remains unclear is if those huge operating costs would have come down too – the F35 is also struggling with that issue, so it might not have.

F22 is a generation behind in tech terms, perhaps, but all that goes into the F35 could have also gone into the F22 in the same incremental fashion like the F35 upgrades.

I totally get your points ref situational awareness, sensor fusion etc and that modern combat is changing/evolving so 1v1 etc may not be what the future holds. But the enablers that the F35 uses to achieve this are no doubt available to the opposition too (we are only really talking Russia/China) to a greater or lesser degree. In all probability this still leaves the F35 with an advantage in this area.

However, much is made of the F35 being undetectable – strip the enablers away, and you have a plane-system v plane-system scenario.
The F35 isnt invisible, I think we in the West ignore the potential capabilities of Russian plane based detection systems. You have to assume they are at least equal to what we have until proven otherwise – surely?

After that you get down to pilot skill and numbers – both capability wise and mass of assets. Factor in that the opposition has more of everything hanging off their planes, which out range our missiles and I can see a problem for us. Just my take on it.

I think the comments below ref ‘follow the money’ and ‘countries buying it if it didnt live up to its promise’, is a little simplistic. Countries are buying it because there is nothing else to buy (Typhoon/Rafele aside), certainly if you want Western 5th gen capability. Robert Gates (US DS)killed off the F22 programme, he also killed of the F15/16/18 replacement requirement, effectively leaving the F35 as the only offering. Great for US industry, not so great for the rest of us despite the scraps being handed out to various nations.

I’m not saying said F35 isnt any good, just that it has several flaws, some serious, which IMO doesnt make it the ‘game changer’ that its hyped up to be. The USN is already looking at a replacement AD asset when the C version has only just gone to sea and isnt at FOC yet!!! The USAF is also looking at a new AD asset as well as a potential cut in F35 numbers if they go down the ‘clean sheet’ 4.5 gen F16esq requirement. Something isnt adding up, and its not just the costs – again, my take only, and I’m sure people have there own views too.

Sorry – its a bit of a long reply.

Robert Blay

The reason the USN haven’t taken the F35C in great numbers to sea yet isn’t because of the jet, it’s because of the need to adapt the carrier’s to take the F35. The new workshops, Engineering spaces. The computer capability to download all the data the F35 can collect. The logistics chain ect ect. The decks need new blast jet deflectors. They don’t tell you these things in the websites that exist to criticise the aircraft. And it’s one thing that a Russian radar might be able to detect an F35, it’s another thing to track and get a firing solution, and implement a successful kill chain. And I think the idea of a clean sheet 4.5gen is bonkers. How many billions would that cost? total none starter. If the USAF really wanted a new 4.5 gen, buy Typhoon, and save a fortune. And Russian fighter radars are not of the quality of Western systems. F35 with Meteor Will out range any Russian missile. The Chinese still can’t even build a decent fighter engine yet, let alone an aircraft of the quality of the F35. F22 is a fantastic aircraft. But it’s capabilities are far beyond what most nations need or can afford. Should they have built more? yes definitely. But even F22 was beyond the deep pocket of the US. And it was designed to face a threat that never really materialised. F35 is designed more for strike, not total air dominance like F22. But still has air to air capability that exceeds any 4.5 gen aircraft. Back in 2009 RAF Tornado F3’s achieved a kill ratio of 12/1. 12 kills for ever 1 F3 lost against F15C’s F15E’s F16’s and F22’s. They did that because they had outstanding situational awareness, and the very best weapons. (AMRAAM & ASRAAM) Tornado F3 was not a highly agile aircraft. Lesson have been learnt from such experience.


Evening mate, work, just gets in the way doesnt it!

I expect that everything you have posted ref 35C is spot on, and maybe a bit more that we dont know about? Was it not supposed to go to sea with the USS Ford initially, but ended up going on the USS C Vinison! I’m sure that they will sort it eventually.

There has been lots of criticism of the F35, both programme and actual aircraft. IMO some has been a bit wide of the mark, but, equally some has been justified, or certainly food for thought as opposed to just face value acceptance. I agree with you that the ASRAAM/Meteor combination makes it a potent adversary, which is where we are in a better position then the US -should have bought Meteor!!

I think that you are being a bit unkind WRT RUS/CHN radar/missile and engine technology in the current climate. Yes agree late 80’s/90’s early 00’s that was undoubtedly the case. Now, not so sure. We might still be ahead, but that gap will be closing. I like to believe we should ‘always honour the threat’, until proven otherwise.

I’m not sure what prompted this ‘clean sheet 4.5 gen aircraft’ comments out of the USAF, might be LM bashing, might be frustration with the delays/costs in the programme, expect we may never really know. Of course, it may just be that given all the aircraft types being replaced by the F35, in certain scenarios it might just be too’high end, too capable’. It has to do a lot of things, and it cant do all that the legacy aircraft it is replacing can do in the same fashion. Perhaps there is a requirement for something less capable and cheaper – who knows.

Agree with you on the F22 wrt being designed for a threat that wasnt really there, unfortunately, by producing it the US has created a threat- SU57 / J20. They will only improve in both capability and numbers, so if the US aren’t building anymore F22’s, the F35 needs to be good, until they get their NGAD jets into production.

As always mate, its good to debate these things, even if we don’t always agree.


Your posts are the most accurate real picture of F-35 and today’s air war theatre on here imo.




But the frigates use merlins too so cut that number by a third,

Last edited 2 years ago by Cam

Yes, and broadly speaking approx a quarter are in maintenance at any given time, so less still.


True for all aircraft & ships so I’m not sure what your point is.


We have 30, but on any day only ever have 22/23 actually available, 14 are with the CSG,. In context to Cams post, the numbers currently available to deploy elsewhere are smaller still!


There’s not 14 Merlin HM2’s with the carrier group. Try again.


Well fella, you appear to be the font of ALL knowledge regarding military matters, so perhaps we should all just stop posting and appreciate your sage words!!!!


In a carrier task force, the Merlins are located on the carrier with the escorting frigates/destroyers carrying force protection/recon Wildcats.


Including commando merlin?


No. The commando Merlins are not fitted for Crowsnest.


I meant the 14 merlins carried include commando merlin don’t they as they are the SAR. So we will have more Mk2 Merlins available for else where.


Ah. Makes sense but there’s not 14 embarked. I think there’s 7 HM2 plus 3 mk4’s.


My theory is the the RN know we won’t be getting into a peer on peer battle anytime in the next decade… only way i can justify all the flaws. Or if we are we will be with USA battle group and under their protection.

And talking about Astute’s being sunk, can Astute’s carry long range anti ship missiles, to reduce its chances of being sunk?, it would be a great capability to have.

Robert Blay

You really haven’t a clue pal. ?


1) Using Merlins for AEW on the carriers means there aren’t enough for escorts operating independently of the carrier group where they are much needed as Wildcat has no data link amd no ASW detection gear.
2) There is typically only 1 SSN with a CBG. Long range SSM’s carried by many other navies mean that hostile ships need to be engaged at least 300 miles away. The SSN is going to take a day to get there, eliminate the target and return to station. During that time the CBG has lost far and away it’s most effective ASW asset. Engaging that ship with an ASM equipped F35 would take 90 minutes for the round trip.
This is the reason every other navy (even ones with SSN’s) have a long range ASM on their carrier aircraft.
3) Spear 3 does not have the range for the launching platform to stay out of the engagement envelope of most area defence SAM’s. I wouldn’t want to bet my F35 entirely on it’s stealth given the improvements in detection capability of stealth aircraft that are being incrementally made all the time thanks to huge Russian and Chinese investment in this area.
Other nations which have F35’s are fitting long range ASM’s and land attack missiles to them for precisely this reason.


Locating the CSG Merlins on the carrier has nothing to do with numbers. It’s just a better place to support and deploy them from. In the past, the same methodology was used with the Sea Kings.

Defence from incoming missiles is a job for the T45’s not the Astutes.

Spear 3 has comfortably over the horizon range. It’s main rationale and design point, is taking out air defence systems on land. That’s no different from hitting air defence systems at sea i.e. warships.

Not all nations acquiring F-35’s are fitting anti-ship missiles. Not even the majority of them. However the RN will be fitting Spear 3 which will disable any enemy surface warship from a safe distance.


You didn’t answer my points but instead answered some I didn’t make. For a man keen to denigrate everyone else’s posts virtually every time your reply to someone, I’d have thought you’d have taken more care in your resposr.

I said the decision to use Merlin for AEW meant fewer Merlins available for none CBG escorts on independent deployments.

I said you stop the hostile ship launching it’s SSM’s by attacking it with air launched ASM’s which can be done in a 90 minute mission as opposed to your suggestion of using an Astute and denying the CBG it’s most effective ASW asset for a day. I said that this was the reason other SSN equipped navies with carriers equipped their aircraft with a long range, heavyweight ASM (France, USA, Russia and China).

I said Spear 3 requires the launching aircraft to go in the engagement envelope of most area defence SAM systems not that it wasn’t an over the horizon missile.


“over the horizon” and “outside the engagement zone” mean the same thing.


Astute isn’t ubiquitous, and it’s not a surface to surface deterrence.


I think you’ll find SSN’s are a very credible surface ship deterrent. Ask the Argentinians.


Not if they don’t know they’re there. ROEs have changed since Falklands so 1st shot goes to enemy. What then? How does the Astute know the EN warship had fired first?


Nonsense. Submarines don’t have to be visible to be a deterrent. Just the threat is enough.

And what ROE? They are established per conflict not etched in stone someplace.


How can an SSN be a deterrent if the EN doesn’t know it’s there? Take off your blinkered view and think as N2.


We still have navy Harriers at Culdrose, let’s put AEW on them and fly from our carriers lol, I would just love to see it.

Or just buy the AW 609 tilt rotors blob:

Last edited 2 years ago by Cam

The UK has 48 delivered and on order. Enough to fill to overflowing a QE class carrier.

“Other stuff” Like what, Photon torpedo’s and phaser cannon?


There is more to a ‘carrier air group’ than bomb trucks. 48 delivered and on order? They are delivered or not. In service or not.

The RN is short of all manner of equipment. Perhaps if you stopped playing Top Trumps you might do some research and learn something?


There’s a lot more to the F-35 than being a “bomb truck”.

48 F-35B on order and delivered is 48 on order and delivered.

The government has said additional orders beyond the 48 will be placed. The responsible heads of the RN & RAF have indicated a final total of around 80-90. Four squadrons and an OCU’s worth. Enough to simultaneously deploy both UK carriers with full decks.


Careful Ron you typed more than a line.

Deep32 has replied as I would have done. Really not huge numbers. 5 per year ish over the next decade? And the government has said orders will be placed beyond 48 yes. But the government could easily announce no more. The Marine Nationale has just 44 Rafales for CdeG on the back of the hundred plus airframes their airforce has which means those 44 are cheaper. F35 is an expensive aircraft. We shall see.

F35b is a bomb truck. I know many here get excited over sensor fusion on so on. But the role of F35b is to carry HE.


We currently have 21 F35Bs in service, 3 are in USA, with 18 based out of Marham (QE deployment). The other 27 are scheduled to be delivered over the next 5/6 years. This may be pushed right by the late roll out of Blk4 software.
Like you say, it looks as though we might end up with a total of around 80ish when all is said and done.


It’s slightly bonkers isn’t it X! Our escorts have little offensive weapons just defensive…


It’s slightly Bonkers X!.. our escorts almost have no offensive weapons just purely defensive!!.


You might wish to check the dictionary meaning of “escort”.


I just shortened it to escorts instead of saying or frigates and destroyers most know what it means.


It is an accepted term don’t feed the troll.

If you think about if they only have defensive weaponry and just protect HVU and other ships what are the but ‘escorts’?


You have to ignore Ron. He is just being his normal chippy self. Escort is perfectly acceptable term.

There is no point in a platform that cannot hurt the enemy. It is another instance of the RN being ‘clever’.


Yep. The later Burke’s in the USN don’t have a dedicated SSM but their SAM’s can be used against ships as well as aircraft


As can the missiles on a T45.


As can the Mk8, heck the ship itself could run over the enemy.

It won’t happen. Not enough missiles to waste. Will be dealt with by something else further out or an aviation asset.


Sea viper?


How many “blue water” navies have nuclear attack submarines & 70k ton aircraft carriers with 100% 5th gen aircraft?



What an odd statement. The USN has nearly 6 times as many SSN. And is flying F35 off CVN and LHx. PLAN has 40k tonne carries and SSN’s. What exactly are you driving at? We are in a position where the fighting strength of the RN could be sunk in afternoon. And you think that is something positive?

Robert Blay

And just how affective are those PLAN carrier’s? Can they launch aircraft with a useful payload and range??. 4th gen? They are based on old Russian designs, hardly cutting edge. They have nothing that can come close to a QE class with F35. Let alone a USN CVN.


Hi Robert. you seem to forget that the vast majority of the US CVN fleet is made up of 4th gen F18 SHs! The PLAAF has over 500 SU 30 type aircraft with a un refueled combat radius of 1000nm, 2 1\2 times that of a F18 and nearly twice that of a F35! They also carry a far greater payload then both our aircraft types, along with various types of missiles which have a greater range then ours, so it’s highly doubtful we would get within range of said PLAN carriers if they are operating under a PLAAF umbrella!!!
Like you said in your other post to me – do some research on the subject…. Just saying……


The question is can those Chinese aircraft fly of their carriers with all the fuel and payload that your top trumps game has told you.

Answer is no they can’t.


Who is on about flying off their carriers? I’m referring to their Air force, so yes they can carry the fuel/payload out to that range. No top trumps here Popeye, try doing so research instead of plucking random facts out of where ever you do.


The discussion point here is the effectiveness of Chinese carriers and their aircraft. You think they’re wonderful because they can operate under the cover of land based aircraft. Others might disagree with that assessment.

The fact remains that Chinese naval aircraft has limited payload and range due to the deficiencies of their carriers.


Actually I broadened the discussion by introducing the PLAAF capabilities if you read my post! No, I don’t think they are wonderful, I’m not entirely sure of their navy fighter capabilities, but they can operate under shore based air cover out to a range that would require any Western carrier assets to have to conduct AAR just to reach any targets. That’s simple maths, shouldn’t tax you too much.

Your last point is applicable to both sides of the equation, ours and theirs, but, unlike some, I look at both perspectives, not just the one that suits!


Belittling the UK armed services and their capabilities is not something I will not participate in. You should be ashamed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ron5

Endorsing under spending on our armed forces, especially our Naval Service is something I cannot condone. And you do it all the time.

You wouldn’t no the aft end of T23 from a CGI’s pace stick if it dropped on your head.


That’s all great RON5!,but we lack enough Nuclear Atack subs, We needed 10 minimum. And we are likely to need anti ship weapons hell even the threat of having them is a great deterrent and so is cruise missile armed escorts, our enemy would be over the moon knowing our warships have no ASM! So let’s hope our new ASM combines both roles as that would be a huge upgrade and a much needed capability. It’s kind of embarrassing having a billion pound destroyers with no ASM or even a sonar!…

And we might have a huge Carrier with 5th gen jets but remember who’s protecting those carriers, escorts with hardly any offensive weapons. And we have to wait 5/6 yaers untill we even have just 48!.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cam
Robert Blay

Have you stopped and thought about why the RN hasn’t prioritised heavy anti ship missiles? Because we could have them. We would just have to spend a little less on something else. And if the threat analysis warranted it, we definitely could have them. But we don’t . So why do you think that is?


We should just buy what we actually need to be a credible fighting force…

Robert Blay

We are a very credible fighting force. If we have too, we sink big vessels with SSN’, and small ones with helicopters in the littoral. That is what experience has taught the RN in conflict and in war games. With vessel anti ship missiles as back up. The Navy isn’t daft. Spearfish torpedoes, Martlet & Sea Venom missiles are world class. And the Astute class is deadly, and would keep most Navies in port.


In a peer scrap Wildcat won’t get within the SAM target tracking range to safely deploy SeaV. An SSN isn’t a deterrent and isn’t ubiquitous. Nothing other than OTH ASuW is sufficient.


Wildcat with Venom is over the horizon ASuW and SSN’s are a very powerful deterrent.

One more strike and you are out.


Venom hasn’t the range for Wildcat to remain outside the SAM rings of many peer surface threats


Oh yes it does. It’s an OTH missile which puts it out of detection range by your long range systems.


For OTH to work, you need a reference. This means satellite or radar or some other means of gathering targeting information. If the helicopter is generating that targeting information itself while also carrying the missile, then it means sticking its ‘head’ up OTH. At that point, it is visible to ship radar. Most long range SAM’s & some short/medium are active radar. Helicopters are not very fast. SAM’s, even the slow ones are Mach 1+. A ship can guide an active missile to where it plotted the helicopter at or where it expects it to be & the missile radar takes over when it gets there. Not to mention the opposition may have a helicopter or UAV of its own in the air feeding it information. While Sea Venom is technically OTH, it’s range is likely less than CAMM (which is definitely not long range). Against a missile like CAMM-ER or ESSM B2, things may get interesting.


1. Wildcat can locate target by detecting its missions from over the horizon. Venom can be fired from OTH and the missile guided via two way data link while the Wildcat remains OTH.

2. Even active radars need a location for initial guidance. See Aster & Ceptor.

3. Which enemy helos & UAVs have the capability of directing ship launched anti-air missiles?

4. Nothing technical about Venom being OTH, that was a key requirement.


No Wildcat TTPs will include getting inside the target tracking zone of a peer medium range SAM, in order to take the shot. Range of Sea Venom is below that of most medium range SAM systems. That’s why a ship based ASuW is critical.


Over the horizon is outside of any SAM tracking zone regardless of the range of the missile. Venom is over the horizon.

I agree that ships are the best location for heavyweight missiles. Which is why the RN has Harpoon fitted to Type 45’s and Type 23’s and is looking for a replacement missile per the article.


The Royal Navy can deploy 2 SSNs at a time 3 in an absolute emergency. The Royal Navy allegedly has global responsibilities. 2 subs cannot cover the globe. Especially when 1 is stuck to the carrier.


Why would the RN not buy a system that supports its basic role? We don’t have things because there isn’t the money. The RN isn’t a clever organisation. It is an exception. Are you telling me that MoD(N) is cleverer than every other government naval department on the planet? Really? Wow.

The West is facing a shortage of both escorts and SSN’s. Materially the USN fleets are suffering; the main excuse why we can’t do anything because the US does it may not be viable much longer.


British military history is littered with examples of under armed forces being sent to conflict zones on the basis that when needed the equipment will turn up in time. It doesn’t. The lack of AsUW has been a gamble, as was getting rid of MARPAT. One day that gamble will backfire, and sailors will pay for it. The T31 looks like a gamble.


Except there isn’t a lack of ASuW at present.

Third strike, you are out.


What ASuW do the T45s carry? Why do most T23s not carry them?


Harpoon are carried by T45 and T23 when the situation calls for them. They will be replaced by the missile under discussion in the (hopefully) near future.

And both types carry Wildcat with Venom.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ron5

I agree that the RN should be purchasing a new anti-ship missile.

I don’t agree that hanging them off Merlins is a good idea neither do I agree that updating Harpoons is an effective way forward due to that missiles shortcomings.

I also don’t pretend the RN is somehow defenceless because of the lack of a new missile. That’s far from being true.


What about ASM from our submarines?


That has pros and cons. Unfortunately firing a missile gives away the location of the submarine and if the target is a long way away, you have to wonder about accurate identification.


We need 12 SSN’s on a 4 for 1 basis. One for duties in Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic. One to follow the carrier. And one for elsewhere.

Phillip Johnson

Given this is an interim buy of limited numbers there are really only 2 essential requirements;

  1. How smoothly and quickly can the new missile be integrated to the selected warships sensors and command systems; and
  2. How quickly can you get a resupply if the need arises.
  3. Everything else is a nice to have.

Thumbs up.

Mike O

I am a bit curious about the logic of using heavy weight anti ship missiles for land attack. What are the likely targets? Port facilities? Airfields? I do not think any of the options in the article are optimised for hardened targets. Unlike Stormshadow. Stormshadow and Tomahawk seem to be superior weapons for the likely land targets of the interim missiles.

Spear 3 or something like Fireshadow seems more appropriate for land attack on frigates. A wider target set, can be used as precision support to troops, moving targets, can swarm.

The US fired tens of tomahawks at airfields in Syria without destroying them. 8 smaller missiles on frigates will not alter any strategic situation. Spear 3 offering precision support to marines ashore might.

Of course if the FCASW replaces Stormshadow then logically it makes sense but for the interim missiles why not just upgrade Harpoon?


Spear 3 is a lightweight and short range weapon. Chucking a small amount of HE accurately is always better than a lot of HE chucked inaccurately. But anything worth or in need of attacking will probably need something more serious so a heavier weapon. A frigate then being able to hit a radar site or a battery ashore could be useful. This is operational level activity not strategic.

Airfields are hard to take out, especially runways. The aim is more to disable them long enough for you to conduct your operation.

(The airfield in Syria was chosen because it was a non-target.)

Last edited 2 years ago by X

Spear 3 will be launched from Typhoons and F-35B’s. Not frigates.


Again I can’t see where I said Spear 3 would be launched from any particular platform. All I said it is short range and lightweight. A bit like you comprehension skills………..

You must be a really odd person to get off on these one sentence inaccurate posts you do here and other places.


Yes you need a bit of both, small and accurate and long range, large and very accurate.

There simply is no place in a western navy for large and inaccurate, that’s why our present harpoons are a bit of a joke, there is almost no way they could ever be used outside a Tom Clancy novel. Only our authoritarian opponents can toss old in accurate Cold War Missiles around and get away with it.


The egg goes in which way again?


That’s not an English expression, is it Russian?


I’ll take your silence as a yes.


I wonder if using one missile for both roles means you get a missile that does neither job well.
For ship attack you want decent range and high speed. For land attack you want decent speed and long range.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sunmack
Armchair Admiral

good comment. I know the Spear3 is on the light side for anti ship, but firing a bunch of them, including the EW version would surely do significant damage to most ships. Not only that but they have utility for precision strike and anti-swarming duties.
Having something with such a wide ranging target set in numbers on a vessel makes sense to me. If they were to be canister launched, how many would you be able to carry on the footprint of just 8 large anti ship missiles?


Germany went with a two missile solution. New Naval Strike missiles for the frigates and RBS15 for the corvettes.
It’s always important to decide what you exactly want from an anti-ship. Ships which are supposed to be crossing oceans and operate in blue waters would be better helped with a lighter purely anti-ship missiles, while ships operating in littoral waters and supposed to support ground forces can put larger missiles with land-attack capabilities better in use.

Mike O

Thanks guys, some really good responses. Just some further thoughts taking into account your comments.

I am not convinced that it is the best idea to rule out the latest version of Harpoon due to limited land attack capabilities (as stated in the article). Mainly because Stormshadow and Tomahawk are in service. Upgrading Harpoon, in theory, should be a cost effective solution.

The FCASW seems like a well thought out concept. As it is replacing Stormshadow one missile filling both roles seems like a good idea.

A light precision weapon like Spear 3 is probably a good idea also. A two missile solution to land attack should cover most scenarios. Especially with a 5inch gun.


We may well get a 2 missile ship based missile solution. T26 will have 24 Mk41 silos, granted they may not always be filled everytime, but something will be going in those tubes.
Obviously FCASM is one missile, TLAM might very well find its way into the fit, as the longer range(900nm) option. I don’t think we will get ASROC, so perhaps those two and some AAM varient -CAMM-ER? I’m sure more details will follow over the next few years.


I thought ASROC (RUM139 VLASROC) was one of the reasons for fitting Mk41?
I can’t see T26 leaving the wall with 24 AShM and / or TLAM.

It is something we have needed for a long time.


Despite what I posted, I agree with you ref needing ASROC, I’ve just never seen anything ever mentioned about us getting it. We always seem to prefer our Helo setup for ASW ops.
TLAM/FC-ASM/ASROC would IMO be a good outfit for those tubes, although I would prefer us to have Stingray/successor on the end of said rocket.

Glass Half Full

The BAES vision encompasses VLA and waist launched anti-torpedo torpedo using the Future Lightweight Torpedo (FLT) per the Future Underwater Weapons video at the bottom of the linked page below. Also FLT air launch from P8, Merlin, RWUAS, and Protector (using glide kit).

Can’t say how much of the BAES vision overlaps with RN/MoD ambition though. But organic air-launched and VLA FLT, in combination with the Kingfisher concept, could be how a T83 might have a significantly greater ASW capability than T45, without the need for a high end T26 level hull and propulsion ASW focused design.

It may just be artistic license in the video, but the VLA FLT is shown in two places launching from CAMM cells not Mk41. Which may be viable if the Stingray replacement leverages a smaller form factor, enabled by advances in explosives for a smaller lighter warhead with similar effects, combined with a shorter range due to better more accurate delivery options.

Note that BAES keep updating/changing the Kingfisher and Future Underwater Weapons videos, so worth checking occasionally.

Supportive Bloke

I would hazard a guess that Kingfisher is part of the T26 vision as it is the only credible reason for the 5” gun.

There is a lot of merit in being able to fast launch a ring/line of sonar buoys and then prosecute in less time than it takes to get the cab out of the hangar.

Glass Half Full

Probably. It also justifies a 5″ gun on T83 IMV, when it otherwise wouldn’t make much sense to spend budget on it. I’m actually more interested in Kingfisher for T83 as it provides a better layered defence for a CSG or AG.


It’s an option. Missiles can fly when aircraft can’t.


The MoD has officially stated ASROC is a candidate for the T26.


Wasn’t aware, ta.


You’re welcome and obviously there’s a huge distance between saying something is a candidate to actually buying the system. Personally I wouldn’t bet on an ASROC acquisition for the reasons you mentioned.


Yes, you are very possibly correct on that score, although the age of said system might also go against its selection.



Glass Half Full

FCASM could be two missiles.


Cheers for the posts, agree with you ref BAE vision and MOD ambition – suspect there is a big gap though!!
T83 will be interesting, like you and many others, suspect it will have improved ASW capabilities, not necessarily comparable to the T26, but certainly effective.
FCASM is intriguing, as you say coming perhaps with 2 versions. If both are produced, will be interesting to see what we opt for? However, and its speculation I know, but current info has it with a range of 300ish nm, comparable to LRASM, whereas TLAM has a range of 900nm. Just wondering if we might utilise both on the T26. Would give us plenty of options, whilst reducing burden on the Astutes??


It’s been published that the Royal Navy and the French prefer speed while the RAF prefer stealth. I don’t know how accurate this is.


Yes, ive read something along those lines too, cant remember where I saw it though!!

Glass Half Full

I think there is scope for us to have both FCASW variants for two reasons.

  1. We already have Harpoon, Storm Shadow and TLAM in service, three entirely different missiles with no commonality, with all the inefficiencies and costs that come with that. So just two missile types, albeit with some variation on each to support different launch system and platforms seems acceptable.
  2. A major uplift in capability for air, surface and sub-surface platforms. Per Ron5’s comment, I could see why the RAF might only see a need for a sub-sonic stealth solution, especially for their primary land attack mission, the RN could benefit from both IMV for ASM use.

We’re all guessing of course but my money is on the sub-sonic version being a replacement of TLAM at the latter’s OSD for submarine use, with no use of TLAM from surface ships.

Tomahawk, with its upgrades, may still be a viable solution for land attack where it might be able to avoid A2AD systems to reach its target. However, I’m not really convinced about this and question if it would be considered state of the art for new adoption. I have much less faith in Tomahawk being a good ASM solution where its heading straight into state of the art detection systems on peer ships.

My background for this perspective is that the USN along with other Western navies didn’t spend much effort on new ASMs post cold war and so the USN have been playing catch up by leveraging what they have for AB/Tico use, while sourcing NSM for their lower end warships.

LRASM AGM-158C was an urgent non-compete requirement for USN aircraft to have ASM capability, no planned surface launch by the USN. SM-6 and Tomahawk are re-purposing non-optimal solutions for ASM. The US is supposed to be re-starting the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW)/Increment 2 competition for a new ASM due around the end of the decade which might replace both AGM-158C and Tomahawk.


The problem the MOD/Navy have with TL TLAM is its certification, its run out/running out. The US missiles are currently in the process of being certified (which lasts 15 yrs), they began the process late 2019/early 2020 I believe.

Due to when we purchased our stocks, we will need to certify our inventory from 2022/23 onwards if we want to keep this option. Not exactly ideal, but not certifying them would leave a capability gap until any form of FC/ASM entered service. We didnt purchase large numbers, so I suspect we probably only have somewhere between 50-100 available. Can we tag it on to the end of the US phase – possibly, I’m not sure we want the capability gap, as they are too useful a tool to have.

Phasing them out when FC/ASM comes along is a real possibility, but, we take an enormous hit on range, putting said SSM far closer to the land for a launch whilst reducing the list of targets we can strike at. The same would be true for a T26 fitted with them, arguably putting them at greater risk.

Personally I think we should certify them (15 more yrs), as it keeps options open, but thats just my take. Which brings us round to the question of whats going into those Mk41 tubes??? TBH, what you have posted makes sense, but then again so would a small buy (70-100) of VL TLAM, not for the ASM role, but LR land strike. It would also ease any potential pressures if FC/ASM arrived late.

Glass Half Full

I wasn’t aware on certifications timing so what you say makes sense in extending life for another 15 years. Since its our only LA capability for now I agree it doesn’t make sense to gap it.

The French MdCN and Tomahawk are very similar weapons from the perspective of gross weight, war head size and its not clear how much difference there actually is in range with both quoted at >1,000km. For these reasons I look at a sub-sonic FCASW as being potentially capable of similar or greater range and delivered effect vs. Tomahawk, with the benefit of a modern low observable design and more modern sensors and electronics.

The potential uses of T26 Mk41 is interesting to speculate on. The 24 cells might only be used for ASuW, Land Attack and VLA (assuming no CAMM cell solution), use of RUM-139 VL-ASROC is unlikely though IMO; but either way I think this use misses a trick. Up to now there hasn’t been a RN need for CEC, IMO T26 changes that when deployed with T45. The strike length cells could support ABM capability including SM-6 and even SM-3, or Aster 30 Blk 2 BMD which seems likely to exceed the A50 cell length in T45, all provided with targeting from a T45. This would bridge until T83’s organic BMD capability which is likely to also use Mk41 now we’ve made that change.


Anyone know why the upgrade kit for the harpoon is not on the list.and why can the electronics be upgraded to allow land attack, there must be a viable stock pile of these missiles which will only go to waste. Also NSM would be good smaller choice to give the RN to choose weapons to suit the required impact. and usefull for the type 31 deployed to gulf, South Atlantic and South China sea


I agree that canister SSM’s would be enough for the anti-surface role for the T31 in those environments.
However, we must never deploy a T31 to the Gulf or the South China Sea. Both of those environments have a submarine and mine threat and the T31 has no ASW weapons or sensors and her Lynx helicopter also has no ASW detection equipment


I heard a rumour that the old towed sonar from the t23 lifex may be fitted better than nothing if true but are they not the areas the T31 will be Forward deployed too or am I missing something.


Bad rumour. T23 towed systems are going the the T26.


Apologies did not mean the sonar just fitted to t23 I realise that’s going to t26 I meant the 2013z set up and possibly the 2050 now sonar being removed during lifex upgrade.

Supportive Bloke

2050 is obsolete and a parts problem.


Are they? Why do the type 26 still cost so dam much!


T26 are not expensive compared to other high end warships but they could be cheaper if they were not being built so slowly due to George Osborne’s insistence.


Really? What other ASW Frigates cost more than 1 billion each?


The T26’s under build today cost about 800 million each to build. Batch II ships are predicted to be 20% cheaper, about 650 million.

They do a lot more than just ASW and they will do ASW better than any other surface ship.

Dick Van Dyke

These are figures that aren’t confirmed yet, no T26’s have been built or finished so far.


Figures were provided by Sir Simon Lister, MD of Bae Naval shipbuilding. The 800 million is the contract price for the first 3. His estimate for the second batch is unlikely to be low balled seeing that he’s in the middle of batch II negotiations. If anything, it would be high.

Dick Van Dyke

I prefer to see what actual figures history will record personally. I’ll wager a bet that they will differ to those of Sir Simon, they always do.


Treasury counts more than the contract price. It counts in service costs, training aids, simulators etc and also a good chunk of maintenance costs for those systems for at least 5 years maybe more as thats normally also done by contract.
This showed up with P-8 as the actual price paid to Boeing to fly-away was revealed by the US navy block buy.


I guess we’ll meet back here in 20 years time then (eyes roll)


Why not deploy a T31 to the PG/SoH area? We currently have a ‘GP’ T23 out there. It doesn’t have a TA, yes it has a good bow system, but is it in hibernation? Do they have the Sonar rates onboard to man it – T45 lost their sonar boys to T23 TA frigates due to shortages, so, it may be the same for our PG T23 despite the SM/mine threat.
Agree that 12 AAM silos are a bit light, but, it’s only a picture, there have been pictures showing 24 tubes – we will see what they come out with.
The PG is not a very good environment for either SMS to operate in, or for ships to hunt them in, predominantly shallow water, very difficult sonar conditions with high levels of background/shipping noise and lots of fresh water mixing from the many rivers that flow into it. If it did get to a war footing, said T23/31 would be pulled out of the area and other assets would take over, so, for the current threat level, these ships are probably more then adequate for the roles they are conducting.


There is a mine threat and reportedly land based torpedo threat in the PG as well as submarines. You can’t deploy a warship in that environment that has no detection capability for subsurface threats.
I think your last paragraph supports my point. A warship which has to be withdrawn from an area in the event of war shouldn’t be there.


Hi mate,

Ref your first point, that is what we are basically doing now with the ‘GP’ T23s surely! We have dedicated MW assets in place (long standing requirement) in this region for exactly this purpose.
Sub hunting is a specialised game, not limited to any one type of platform (ie just ships).
Agree that it can be a huge threat, but, any action will not be limited to a single vessel taking on this task. Most SM threats are intel driven, as the threat level increases, so does the response wrt the numbers and types of assets you put into play.

Ref your second point, my last para supports both views, insofar that it is what we are effectively doing now, and any such vessels would not be acting alone if things escalated to all out conflict or degrees of. We have been operating in this region since the early 80’s at least (Armilla patrols), so I would like to think that the MOD has a handle on what is required, this, and money is what I think is driving our requirements in this area.

I actually agree with you and many others, said T31 looks a little ‘lightweight’ in the offensive armaments area, however, lets get it built and see what it comes with/intend to actually fit it with. And yes, its a crime not to fit them with a competent sonar system…..

Dick Van Dyke

Deep, as always, I’m very interested to read your posts here, you obviously know your stuff and in particular the every day comings and goings of our undersea service, not to mention our surface fleet.


Cheers for the post, there are several really informed posters on this site and over on UKDJ, from varying backgrounds, hopefully it adds to the debate and we can all learn something. ?

dick van dyke

Debate is good when sites like this allow it, some sites just delete comments and members for having a different opinion though.


Yes, we have all been there and suffered that.


Is it beyond the whit of Man to reload these light AAM’s?


I think it’s because it does not meet the ‘terrain following land attack’ criterion. For land targets it uses inertial navigation and GPS, which can easily be jammed. As I understand it ‘proper’ terrain following is like computing a continuous interactive position fix and height by comparing what you see and measure with a stored 3-D map. Such a missile can follow valleys and hide behind natural features.


Does anyone know how cheap it is to fit/hook up the cannisters for something like NSM? Could these be fitted to Type 31 during build without breaking the bank, and the missiles rotated from the Type 23s as they go out of service? I’m thinking that would cut delays in fitting or moving cannisters, and the crew work up could be accelerated.

Might this be a case where fitted for but not with the missiles would be a good idea?

(I can’t believe I’m proposing scope creep for type 31, but I think I am.)

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon

Seems reasonable to assume any “spare” interim missile systems would be fitted to the T31’s. Space is reserved on that design fora canister fit.


I think the NSM is the right choice it can be fitted to the Rivers to turn them into a useful small warship for the Littoral sea denial role.

Dick Van Dyke

Added to the fact that the River’s are now invisible, that would make a lot of sense.


At present, we have a!most no heavy anti ship missile capability. We have a joint project with France that could deliver a new missile by 2028. With funding as always under pressure, we need an affordable option to make good a serious deficit in our surface fleet. The obvious solution is the latest upgraded Harpoon with Babcock able to support it indefinitely. If a long range ship launched land attack missile is wanted( in part to take pressure of the Astute fleet), then Tomahawk is the obvious solution: it’s a known system and in its latest version has a GPS guided anti ship capability.
Acquiring a completely different system in an interim role makes no sense.


Shame we couldn’t get An ASM with land attack capability too, that would give our ships more options.


The Norwegian NSM is supposed to have coastal land attack capability. Targeting would be the main issue but islands and air bases near the coast are known locations


Gabriel/Sea Serpent is marketed as excelling in its ability to evade counter measures and in using sophisticated software processing on its radar returns to discriminate and identify target. This implies some sort of AI decision capability. No mention of comparing to stored images but I guess you could in principle load an image of the target before launch. The Israelis write pretty slick software.

British Tom

If it’s just a short term stop gap solution why not go for a navalized Spear 3? I was under the impression that they were trialing quad packing them In certain VLS systems.


Because it is small and short range.


They are looking for a production, off the shelf system so they can be in service quickly. Ship launched Spear 3 unfortunately only exists as a CGI.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ron5

We could get both the JSM AND NSM
The NSM cannister missle fitted to T45 & T31 and non frontline ships and the JSM with a greater range was found to fit in a mk41 launcher when they redesigned it to fit in a F35a weapons bay so possibly fitted to T26 and subs also carried under wing of F35b. That would be a great all round asset also as slot of our allies using it commonality and reduced price.


I have looked long and hard at the conundrum that is the interim missile solution. The answer is relatively simple depending on the needs of the Royal Navy. Either it wants a weapon for war or a weapon for peace?

The Harpoon in its current guise is really a weapon for war. The one way data-link allows it to be retargeted in flight, but does not let the operator see what the missile’s sensor (active radar) sees. This means it can only be used under the current rules of engagement (RoE) within visual range or where target’s information is provided by a 3rd party like the ship’s helicopter, for beyond the horizon targeting.

However, the RN require a weapon that can meet its current peacetime operating RoE, but also provide sufficient punch that it can be used on day 1 of a peer vs peer conflict. Even though the RBS-15 and Gabriel Mk5 use a two way datalink, both use an active radar. The RBS-15 operates in the J band (10 to 20 GHz), whilst the Gabriel is said to work in the I band (8 to 10 GHz). Both of these bands incorporate the X band, whilst J also covers the Ku band. Both of these bands will provide very good clutter rejection, but they can really only provide a target’s silhouette rather than exacting details, than say a higher frequency W band does, as used by Brimstone/Spear 3. The lower frequency does means that on equivalent output power they will provide better detection range than a higher frequency radar. But unlike the Spear-3’s radar, they cannot be used to target specific spots on a ship only a general area. This is also true against land based targets. The radars of the RBS-15/Gabriel may detect moving vehicles in the open. Whereas, the Spear-3’s radar can see through foliage and detect camouflaged vehicles.

The other issue with active radar is that by its very nature it announces its presence. Depending on the sensitivity of a ship’s electronic surveillance equipment, the radar could be picked up to 5 times the missile’s radar effective detection distance. Thereby not only giving the ship plenty of time of prior warning, but the ability to constantly track the inbound missile. The radar these missiles use will be relatively simple when it comes to signal processing. Due to the packaging constraints there will be a choice between additional signal processing needed for electronic counter-counter measures or fuel/explosive. This means the ships active and passive radar countermeasure will have a much greater effect at decoying the missile.

Secondly both the RBS-15 and Gabriel use a tubular airframe, with lots of nice 90 degree radar reflective control surfaces. Neither of them have used radar stealth in their design. Which means they will be more easily detected by a ship’s radar as they pop over the horizon (ignoring the active radar for a moment)!

This leaves us with the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM). It uses a high contrast imaging infrared (IIR) sensor similar to ASRAAMs but with a much higher resolution. The image it produces is similar in contrast to a black and white photo. It will show up specific details of a target that can then be compared against reference library images to make sure the missile is targeting the right one. It also means that multispectrum flare countermeasures will have a significantly lower chance of decoying the missile, as their profile won’t match the library image. The missile’s airframe has been designed with a much reduced radar cross section, allowing it to get closer before it is detected.

The main problem with IIR sensors, is that their detection range is affected by the climatic conditions such as rain, snow and to an extent dust clouds. Whereas, radar operates in all weathers and can see through dust clouds. Kongsberg have at the behest of the Australian Government teamed up with BAe to incorporate a passive multimode RF sensor within the Joint Strike MIssile (JSM), which is a development of their NSM. The RF sensor can be used in conjunction with the IIR sensor or on its own. This sensor is a derivative of the one used in the LR-ASM. But more importantly means that in poor weather, the RF sensor will allow the JSM to home in on to a ship’s radio or radar broadcasts.

Kongsberg made quite a few airframe modifications to the JSM to allow it to be fitted to the weapons bays of the F35A/C. These modifications have also allowed it to be used in the Mk41 VLS cell as well as from a sub’s torpedo tube. Kongsberg have said the passive RF sensor will be included on their NSMs in the near future.

To my mind the Kongsberg NSM or JSM would provide the Royal Navy with exactly what they need before the joint UK-French FC-ASW enters service. It meets all the current peacetime rules of engagement, with positive over the horizon targeting through its IIR and multimode RF sensors, whilst maintaining a bailout option over its two-way datalink. Perhaps crucially it still provides enough punch to mission kill a ship in a peer vs peer conflict. The stealthy shape and passive homing, means it will also get a lot closer to a ship with high end air defences before it is detected, thereby giving it a better chance of hitting the target compared to the other missile options. It would also provide a good lead-in for the FAA/RAF to purchase the JSM for the F35Bs.


This is when being able to upvote would be good a thing. Sad that those systems get abused by the less able. Super post.

Glass Half Full

Nice analysis.


Just like for the USN on our side of the pond, NSM will be selected, due to its light weight, proven capabilities, and proven ease at interfacing with multiple fire control systems. That’s a major issue, considering there are probably going to be both BAE and Thales-based systems to interface with. Finally, cost – a cash-strapped entity like the RN can buy more for the money, and that matters.

Personally, I’m in favor of the Harpoon Mk II, as I’m sure it has similar capabilities to the newer entrants in the marketplace, but for some reason the USN isn’t. Not sure why though.

Last edited 2 years ago by DaSaint

I am more airman than seaman and would welcome any detailed debate on a couple of points.
Firstly, re equipping helis with ASuW capability. It would surely change the reach and surface to surface threat a of 45, 23, telescopic hangared River 2 or any ship planned including the 31 – drastically.
Could either Merlin or Wildcat be feasible, for example, the precursor to NSM was the Penguin which could be carried on a Super Lynx – so there might be modern options out there for discussion to bring across to either Wildcat or Merlin? To be clear, like some other posters, I am suggesting longer range options to counter medium sized vessels plus, which might include Spear 3 (saturation) and anything heavier that could be fired while keeping the heli out of opponent vessel SAM range. Peer nations such as France and Italy have such a capability and others including Brazil. I am not clear why this capability is overlooked by the RN or MOD.
Additionally, might I get some feedback about Astute anti-ship capability taking on more than one vessel at a time without itself being in serious and immediate jeopardy from the second vessel? This is not an underhand swipe at subs, I am just trying to get an understanding of the realities of the naval environment and capabilities of these impressive boats to remain unseen even after engaging an enemy.
I guess the answer to all these points is cash, but I broadly agree that the requirement to hit land targets in this interim competition seems unnecessary as we now have carriers and Tomahawk capability from the attack subs.
A vessel launched missile in this competition against any serious opponent land target would surely need to consider a land based air force threat or even land based ASM.
Part of my search for information is trying to understand the possible future kill chain. It is likely that any foe anti-satellite missile capability may drastically inhibit target location and identification and obviously any missile requiring GPS for guidance.
Back on topic, the NSM would be my choice due to it’s passive guidance, but I would at least be taking a look at the air launched version NSM-HL (from helis) which is seemingly ready for any integration process. If not for our current helis then the replacement European project, and yes, i understand neither of these options may be an off the shelf timeline.

Last edited 2 years ago by Binocs

As far as the UK is concerned, we cannot simply rely on Astute to be our sole long range conventional surface strike carrier. With only 7 going to be in service, their duties at protecting a CSG and the National Deterrent, doesn’t leave much wiggle room for other tasks outside ASW. The task of long range surface strike must be shared around the fleet, be that from a VLS cell on a T26 or F35.

A good indicator as to why a ship needs a land attack capability, is from the incident with the USS Mason in 2016 by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. They launched around 9 C-802 (Exocet copies) anti-ship missiles at the ship over a 3 day period. The ship’s active and passive defences prevented any hitting the ship. However, later in that same week the USS Nitze fired TLAMs at three radar sites that were used for targeting the C-802s. The TLAMs were a bit overkill, as the radar sites were all coastal, but in built up areas. A smaller lighter missile would have accomplished the same task at a fraction of the cost.

Therefore, a RN warship when under attack from either a peer Nation or factions within a failed Nation, must have the means to not only defend itself, but also to deter further attacks with punitive measures. So it is imperative that a RN ship must have the ability to fire a surface attack missile that meets the current rules of engagement and has a low risk of causing collateral damage, including the political fallout.

I can’t answer you question regarding Astute’s ability to attack multiple targets. I’d be surprised if anyone will give you a reliable answer, as you’re asking for a key performance parameter!

The problem for Wildcat in particular, is the weight and size of a JSM, which weighs in slightly heavier than the NSM at 416kg (917lbs). By contrast a Stingray torpedo weighs 267kg (589lbs) and it can only carry two of those. Plus the NSM/JSM is around 4m long, whilst the Stingray is only 2.6m long. This means a Wildcat would struggle to lift two of these missiles, if at all. So I doubt Wildcat will ever see a large missile such as the NSM/JSM.

The Merlin on the other hand can fly with four Stingrays mounted on the hardpoints, which is 1068kg (2356lbs). They are also cleared to carry a pair of MBDA Marte anti-ship missiles (not for the RN), which weighs around 300kg (660lbs) each, depending on the variant. The standard Marte is no better than the Sea Venom in range or punch, that the RN have started to get. The Marte-ER (340kg and 3.6m long) version has the benefit of a 100km range, which is still far inferior to a NSM/JSM. But then puts it in the same ball park as Spear-3.

At the moment the Wildcat is cleared to carry fourteen lightweight Martlet or four Sea Venom. Against a ship with modern air defences, it can still cause a nuisance if approaching a sea level and from firing from behind the horizon. Much like the Spear-3, Sea Venom can be programmed to target specific parts on a ship, to at least try to get a mission kill. Its small size and flying at wavetop height will make it a tricky target to counter. There have been recent rumours that the RN have finally woken up and that the Merlin will also be getting a surface strike capability. The likely and obvious choice would be Martlet and Sea Venom. Both of these missiles can be used against surface vessels or land targets. This would give the RN commonality in logistics etc, but also more flexibility of dealing with different situations be they on the sea or near the coastline in support of a Marine party.

I very much doubt we will be seeing a long range surface strike missile like NSM/JSM fitted to a Merlin. Though it would give a ship a lot more options in targeting compared to a ship launched version. If anything, I think there would be more appetite for Spear-3 and Spear-EW to be integrated on our Wildcats and Merlins. At 100kg (220lbs) and under 2m long, but with the ability to reach at least 130km, would give a ship’s Captain a lot of options on how they could be used to attack a target. It would mean a Wildcat could carry at least 4, whilst the Merlin could carry at least 10 based on the number of Stingray carried. Perhaps more importantly is that the Spear-3 uses the same programmable tandem warhead that Brimstone uses. Therefore, unlike Martlet and Sea Venom, Spear-3 has a much greater chance of defeating a modern MBT if required. Which will be vital in supporting Marines on coastal raids.

The kill chain conundrum is a completely separate answer. I have an answer but it would take a whole page to explain. Just to say things are moving afoot to bolster our abilities in not only responding to satellites being removed from the loop, but also our ability to affect an enemy’s.


Where have you seen these rumors of Merlin carrying missiles? I personally would regard them as BS.

Why do you think there’s an appetite for Wildcat carrying Spear 3 when it already carries Venom? Wildcat is an anti-ship asset, not anti-tank. Apaches are carried by the carriers & amphibs to support ground troops in that role


If we look at the two main elements of the future commando force (FCF), then I agree, there’s a very good chance that the Army’s Apaches will be supporting them. However, the FCF/marines won’t be limited to only being part of this force. A carrier strike group will carry marines, they may be embarked on a frigate, destroyer or RFA. Therefore, the parent ship will be used to provide the fire support, be it the future interim surface to surface missile, 4.5″/5″ gun or via the ship’s helicopter, as an Apache will not always be available.

For the Wildcat this is not a problem, it has Seaspray radar and a Wescam MX15 IR/EO turret. The turret’s laser provides targeting cuing for the Martlet and the SeaSpray can be used to find targets a long ways off for the Sea Venom. The Merlin HM2 has a problem in that the EO turret is not standard fit and is a role fit that uses the starboard weapon’s hardpoint, thus precluding weapons to be mounted there. Therefore, if it were to be armed with surface to surface missiles, the turret would have to be moved to a new location, as per the HC4. The HC4 is a case in point, it has the same frame layout as the HM2, in that it still has the hardpoint mounts on either side, but these have never been used. Along with a MX15 turret, it could in theory be armed with both Martlet and Sea Venom, using just the turret as the cuing reference.

There were 2 intermations about Merlin getting more fighty, one was said by the current 1st SL at RUSI. It was not directly spoken about as a helicopter upgrade, but during his speech on supporting the Marines in their new role of coastal raiding. Where Wildcats would be the main asset expected to support both surface strikes and marine close air support. But he also intermated that Merlin would not be left behind. Apart from getting the Stingray replacement was he also hinting of a wider role the Merlins would be able to do? If you only have a Merlin for support, doesn’t this seem logical?

The other was by Leonardo themselves who have said they are looking forward to the continued development of the Merlin in support of the RN furthering the littoral strike capability. Admittedly, this is also a pretty vague statement. Apart from a GPMG or a 50 cal, the Merlin does not have any littoral strike capability. So what were they suggesting?

At the moment even though Wildcat has Martlet and Sea Venom, neither of these missiles are designed to take out a MBT. Both missiles use a singular stage warhead, that will be defeated by a MBT’s ERA. Though having 110kg of Sea Venom missile slamming into the side of your tank may put more than a dent in your paintwork. Therefore, the FAA need a missile that can be used to support the marines if they are faced with a number of MBTs. The reason I mentioned Spear-3 is due to fleet logistics and commonality. The missile will be carried by the carriers for the F35s, therefore the logistics, maintenance and training side of things are already covered. The F35s will not be integrated with Brimstone, which would be more useful as it is primarily an anti-armour weapon. However, Spear-3 uses the same programmable dual stage warhead and according to the bumf can be programmed for diving attacks, its subsonic as opposed to Brimstone being supersonic, but is essential a very long range Brimstone.

So for close air support rather than having Brimstone, Spear-3 would be the next obvious choice. It would also give significantly more options to the ship, in how and what can be attacked, especially as it has a decent stand-off range and the ability to loiter.

Ah, there’s a correct, if Wildcat uses the “big wing” it can carry a total of 20 Martlets not 14 as I previously mentioned.

Hurry up and wait I guess?


So basically you have no evidence for either Merlins being fitted with missiles or Wildcat fitted with Sea Spear. You just think both are good ideas.

Absolutely nothing wrong with that. You may be correct.

I personally think both ideas as so far down the list (even if they are on it), there’s no way the MoD would spend any money on either.

PS marines won’t be landing anywhere near locations defended by tanks. That would be suicide.


NSM is being developed to fit Indian MH 60R helicopters,the NSM-HL.
There is also a submarine launched version,torpedo launched,thats being done together with Germany and their 212 submarines


Many thanks for your considered reply Davey.


“Its main drawback is the small warhead with about half the hitting power of the Harpoon it might replace which could be a problem if trying to counter larger warships”

How many larger warships are there than frigates that the RN is ever likely to tangle with?

Dan F

Moving them would be the logical follow on & LRVAS would give the T31 some serious teeth in anti-ship and land attack.

Ha! “If” FCASW fails…. what? Like AFVG, ECA, Horizon Class, FOA etc. etc. etc. Nah! Never happen.

Grigerd K.

The problem, and the recurring theme here, is that a capability gap appeared that shouldn’t have appeared. The role of a navy is to contest the sea. You can’t do that if you don’t have the means to damage (and sink) another’s navy. And before somebody says Astute or F35b we only have 7 SSN’s and we have no anti-ship weaponry integrated yet and the carrier can only be in one place. Some here need to elevate their thinking beyond weapon specs and video games. Last time I looked there was an awful lot of sea out there.