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Another detailed and interesting piece, thank you!


Sadly not that accurate this system also fires two weapons at each target

It also shows the lack of operational experience of the author. Swarm attacks are a coordinated attack with all weapons arriving at the target at the same moment

The nieve talk about this system being able to successfully counter hypersonic weapons
Is fool hardly something that we hope never have to put into practice.


Thank you.

David Barry

I’d appreciate informed thoughts but the biggest issue with Viper is the platform. To put an umbrella over the UK you’d need 4 T45s and with only the six in service that would seem an irresponsibly low number.

Indeed, one T45 provides an umbrella of just140miles and with all our eggs on a QEC, I worry for the future.

Mike Saul

If a RN task force was faced with a saturation attack I fear a T45 would be quickly overwhelmed given the lack of warships available.

Surely any task force would require at least 3 T45s for protection.


Cheapest & quickest option is to fit the missing 16 vls cells it was designed for. The T45 itself is capable of handling a saturation attack but it badly needs more missiles, including a point defence missile. CAMM is quad packable, has a point defence missile minimum range & would be the obvious contender to fill at least some if not all of the additional cells. Adding some form of CEC would also allow missiles from other ships to be better utilised.


Anti-ship missiles are by nature much larger and often also more expensive than surface to air missiles, meaning that a peer oponent can field less attacking missiles than you can defending ones.
Meaning the only adversarial countries that have the resources (in terms of both enough money and enough ships, and also capacity for missiles on those ships) to overwhelm even 2 or 3 Type 45s (let alone other Sea Ceptor armed escorts) would be Russia and China, at which point I think it’s unrealistic to expect the armed forces for a country our size to match the capabilities of those much larger ones (at least without help from allies).

Erich W

Yeah this is often overlooked. How many countries actually have the ability to launch so many missiles, particularly simultaneously? To overwhelm two T45s as escorts and burn through their entire magazines we would have to be talking about 100+ missiles and that’s still not considering electronic warfare, decoys, etc.

Russia hasn’t even shown that capability against a single target. China plausibly could but it’s still debatable in a war scenario considering everything else going on. Western and particularly US doctrine centres around targeting the threat at its origin – meaning there would be strikes to take out the equipment needed to launch those attacks in the first place. Besides there are probably more important targets (i.e. US carriers) in that case.

That all said, for a sustained conflict there is some concern about missile capacity and particularly with cheaper drones. No country is going to launch a hundred 5-10m missiles at a single target but they might launch a hundred 20k drones and it’s much less efficient to fire an advanced SAM at every one.

Mike Saul

Always interesting to read.

Regards Sea Dart, the target had to be illuminated by the 909 radar to achieve a kill.

Two 909s per T42 meant that only two targets could be engaged at anyone time. So if you are being attacked by 4 aircraft at one time you had a problem as no close in missile system was fitted to the T42. Although Phanlax was fitted after the Falklands. Plans to Seawolf were scrapped.

Given the performance of other UK air defence missiles (Rapier, Blowpipe, Seacat, Seaslug) in the Falklands, I think Seadart along with Seawolf performed well.


I think you are right. Both missiles performed well when employed appropriately within their engagement envelopes. When not used this way, it was a disaster. Just look at the sinking of the HMS Coventry and the way the Broadsword with its point defence system ‘sea wolf’ was placed behind the Coventry carrying its high altitude area defense system. It was pure incompetence by RN commanders that lead to that tactical placement of those ships to the axis of threat. I think if Broadsword had been placed closer to the axis of threat, that the Coventry and the crew would not have been lost to two obsolescent fighter bombers carrying Iron bombs.

It is also about radars. At that time radars have to be optomised for the target. Closer targets require shorter pulse lengths and filters to blockout background clutter. Why did the Broadswords radar go down? Was it the way it was being operated? The two ships working properly as a team should of shot down both fighter bombers 10km away. Newer AESA radars are less of an issue as they can be tuned to both short and long range targets at the same time.

It is not always just about the missiles but tactics and how they are employed that are crucial.


I think to label this incident “pure incompetence” is exceedingly unfair to those involved.

If I recall correctly Coventry was attempting to take the incomong raid with Seadart when she suffered a failure in the system (Silo door microswitches?) in the confusion mistakes were made and Broadsword wasn’t able to engage as her Seawolf was wooded by Coventry.

To expect men who five weeks previously were blissfully unaware of an impending war operating equipment that was unproven in combat and utilising tactics which were untried to perform flawlessly is wrong.


I have actually read the inquiry into the sinking and a lot of other reports. The inquiry did quite a good job at identifying issues. The inquiry also thought the ships were moving to slow and were in the wrong relative position. Broadsword was downrange when it needed to be up range. Broadswords radars did a much better job of detecting targets over land. The enquiry also determined that the commanders of both vessels did not recognise the significance of the ship locations either. The reason Broadsword was wooded was because of poor ship placement.
The switches had nothing to do with the sinking. Like most disasters there were multiple causes.The other issues identified. 1) Was the failure to have a SOP when the type 22 was operating with type 42 in this mode. Both ships and sea dart had been around for at least 3 years. Ask yourself; How many years does it take to develop basic tactics? Whose responsibility is it? 2) Conventry repeatedly left Broadsword down range of the axis of attack during the multiple engagements on the day it was sunk.( a terrible mistake,) 3) Poor training was identified in regard to operating the Radars near land on Coventry. 4) The biggest mistake was the Lack of direction to engage the aircraft after they were picked up on radar. The reason the targeting radars were not employed was the failure of the leadership on Coventry to direct the operators to target the attacking aircraft until it was to late. That is a failure of command. By the time the command was given, the attacking aircraft were to close to engage. Clutter was not the problem but is often given the blame in articles. 5) A combat air patrol was within range to intercept the skyhawks prior to sinking but was repeatedly ordered to stay clear. The sinking was a result of incompetence in both training, operating tactics and leadership.

I actually think the Captain of the Coventry probably panicked under pressure and made multiple poor decisions. I think the failure is that the system had not trained the crew including the commander in rigorous and realistic scenarios that actually prepared them for combat. Those that failed in these sort of scenarios should not of been commanding ships. The incompetence lay in the leadership of the Royal NAVY.

Supportive Bloke

Yup but these were not systems that could be set to ‘automatic’ and left to shoot down aircraft. They needed a lot of manual intervention. The ‘computer’ systems left a lot to be desired and were slow to lock and needed nursemaiding. To compare Sea Dart to Sea Viper is like comparing the Graphical User Interface (GUI) on a 1970’s mini computer (there wasn’t one) to your newest iPhone (which is totally intuitive).

I salute the skills of anyone who could get this kind of primitive equipment to work most of the time and actually hit fast flying things with it.

The Dart package on the Batch I 42’s was crippled by the older radar fit and a very slow computer system. By the time the Batch III there was a better radar fit and the computer and software was very much upgraded.


Actually Sea Wolf could be put into full auto with the man in the loop stopping not initiating an engagement.
I have watched the sea wolf camera video of that actual engagement and Coventry sailed across Broadsword line of sight causing the 910 trackers to break lock.

There where plenty of lessons learnt post Falklands with regards to Sea Wolf. A lot of these where cleared in 1983 when we, on HMS BRILLIANT, successfully shot down an Exocet fired fron HMS Jupiter whilst on the ranges off of Wales. Other tests we conducted proved that crossing targets and targets manoeuvring in such a way as to make the 910 break lock as they did in the Falklands where no longer a factor.

Supportive Bloke

@Gunbuster Respectfully I wasn’t talking about Sea Wolf but about Dart and Slug.

I have no knowledge of Wolf personally but as I understand it the system was generally quite well thought out and thought of.

I’m certain Slug had nothing approaching an automatic mode!


Dart did get some good upgrades in the late 80s. For my sins I left T22s for one draft and went to a T42 ( never again!!) and was on Brum when she refitted. The Dart handling and loading system was made fully auto so when it started firing the magazine started indexing until it emptied so no need for the Quaters CPO to manually index missiles to the load position.
Upgrades to 909s, 1022R and ADAWS all made it a far better system.
Although not auto engagement behind the scenes the system was a lot better.


Friedman: British Destroyers and Frigates
Sea Dart 7
Sea Wolf 5
Sea Cat 8

pete millner

Hard to appreciate the full power and precision of Sea Viper when limited to just six ships! I know its good thatbwe are building Type 26 and 31e now, but I want to hear about a Type 46 or equivalent very soon, and no less than twelve of them! To safeguard the carriers AND fulfil our global defence needs, nothing less will do

steve jones

You do know that there are fighters on the carriers now dont you Pete?. The outer ring of Fleet Air Defence is F-35B eventually with Meteor….that should be formidable enough in its own right.

Much as I appreciate the zeal and enthusiasm we were never ordering 12 destroyers to cover the CVA-01 hulls!. Originally the AAW screen on CVA-01 was based on 8 Type 82’s. We only stepped up to the number of T42’s we did because we needed additional Sea Dart fire channels in the surface fleet to mitigate the loss of the outer fighter screen when the F-4’s went.

There are far more pressing needs in the RN, for the forseeable future, to be focused on over buying AAW ships that will stay tied alongside for lack of crews!.


A fair bit more can be done without breaking the bank. Adding the missing 16 vls to the T45 for example would give an immediate boost. The T31 is based off an AAW design IH frigate. Up the radar from proposed NS110 to the optional NS200 & you have the base for quite a good frigate. Just don’t loose the space reserved for 32 mk41 vls. Fitting on build is cheaper but they are not that hard a job provided the ships are built with the intention of later fit. One of the big advantages of the A140 over the others for T31, was the ability to be upgraded to high end if required without starting over. Both Australia & Canada are going for a much higher AAW configuration for their T26’s. UK could do the same or similar. ie T45,T26 & T31 are all way under armed to what the design allows for. None of it is free, but requires little if any extra crew & it’s achievable.

John Wood

I won’t tell you the CAP time of a “B” at 80nm ( just 80!)

You wouldn’t believe me.

Stephen Jones

Some way short of an F-4 but considerably better than an FA.2 I’d guess!

Erich W

At 0nm their air-to-air missiles still outrange Aster 30.


Good article 🙂 Aster 30 is a very good missile. Aster 15 might get replaced by Sea Ceptor mainly for a slighter lower performance vs x4 Quad pack advantage which makes a lot of sense imho. Sea Dart evolved into a very good system and even when new its biggest problem was the radar it was working with. Aster 30 really needs an IR/Radar dual seeker to intercept threats like Zircon 3M22 because if the mythical plasma stealth is a problem for radar it should stand out like a Supernova for FLIR that no Flare can decoy (Magnesium Flare at 3000oC vs Plasma at around 20,000oC). It is also very true that the RN was late to the VLS game.


Let the Russians have their plasma stealth. Unless they’ve found a new branch or physics, the missiles’ sensors won’t be able to ‘see out’ because of the same phenomena; so good look with terminal guidance (or even mid-course if it requires a GNSS signal).

I’ll never understand why the RN has such good area defence but we don’t employ the land-based systems, instead relying purely on local, or more commonly point, defence systems for the army.

Stephen Jones

GBAD is short range only because the Luftwaffe is on our side now and the Russians, to get to us, would have to overfly all of our NATO allies in continental Europe (many of whom do have big SAMs) or fly down through GIUK where the RAF was staked out for 40 years.

Anyone else who could fly a manned aircraft over us would have to do so off a carrier and that’s why we have Fleet submarines. Land based area SAMs are a belt and braces luxury item and, when there are actually needed things not funded, they take their place at the bottom of the wish list.


Agreed in the sense of homeland defence from manned air-breathing threats, but the list of entities that could pop off a cruise or BM at us is ever increasing (and to some extent the set up could protect home water shipping from AshM).

And I have yet to be convinced by any argument that a local AD bubble is just as useful as an area AD bubble for army formations moving forward (or backwards, for that matter) or air bases. And when supplied, what it gives is options; when the threat is ‘over there’ so is the area AD…but that doesn’t stop the UK having prepared sites if the need to fall back arises or homeland defence is deemed priority. But again, I take your point about prioritisation currently; the MOD isn’t finding the £500 mil+ to make it work down the back of the sofa. And it isn’t urgent until it’s too late.

steve jones

Take your point but in general the opposing sub/sea/air launch land attack missile threat would be pretty low volume and aimed at discrete, specific, point targets in mainland UK – airfields, naval basing, C4I nodes etc. Short range point defence for those sites we have in the current GBAD provision.

BMs we keep a big stick to deter naturally and naval conventional TBMs are still a bit new as a threat – though one we may need to consider in the mid term I guess – again though thats a threat vector best countered by removing the opposition naval asset. As always its better to shoot the archer not the arrows!.


Yes an no. With the Rapier batteries being replaced with Landceptor, there are not enough units to provide protection too high value targets, airfield or ports as well as to provide local air defence for the Army deployed wherever.
With AWACS support you would only need three fixed sites in the UK to cover the majority of the UK.

Simon m

I fully agree with WeeWill we are taking a gamble the allies hold ground and their defences shoot down air threats. What isn’t recognised is Russian aircraft have evolved as has weaponry meaning we could be facing saturation attacks from long ranged cruise missiles some possibly hypersonic.

The back drop to this RAF is the smallest it has ever been and there would be a pressing need to deploy to the front line to support Allies. I believe we currently only have 1 or so batteries of CAMM which most likely will be deployed. There seems to be lack of will to purchase more. HVM stocks are lower as LMM was purchased in place of some of these. I understand large number of launchers have been withdrawn

So to actually depend upon the RAF and meagre SHORAD to defend the entire country is now slightly questionable. The only silver lining is the range of meteor, however this only going to be added to the more sophisticated Typhoons which will likely be those to deploy.

To me this stinks that 2% is not enough for the defence of the UK and expeditionary warfare.

This is not the only thing we don’t have others include air launched anti ship missiles, surface launched anti ship missiles.
We can easily get away without these, but the capabilities cannot be built up overnight so maybe quickly up the creek. We can’t also just start building aircraft in sheds as in WW2 due to the complex nature of modern systems
Other things need to be kept in mind , we used to have contingency plans such as the backup of hawks equipped with 9l missiles should they be needed as a war reserve. I would be surprised if we have this now due to the changes in MFTS. So who knows what other plans have been withdrawn with stealth cuts.

We can all dig our heads in the sand & pretend we’re better than the rest of Europe, but actually for self defence we are probably worse! spending vast amounts of money on expeditionary capabilities whilst clueless politicians whose FIRST responsibility is defence of the UK not win votes continue to cut the defence budget.

I’m not necessarily saying we need SAMP-T with aster 30 nbt everywhere covering the the whole UK but a few systems enough for a north, middle and south battery with ability to support expeditionary warfare as well would be a start. So at least we have experience and limited capability to expand. Also not sure how we deploy STRIKE etc. unilaterally without proper GBAD or RAF cover. There are concerns amongst experts that forces under S500 protection etc. May mean ground forces are required to pierce the AD bubble what protects them and forward operating bases

T45 should not be used in place of GBAD it is busy enough doing other things, due to numbers won’t have the required coverage & arguably more vulnerable than land based GBAD, with less persistence (reload time)

We need to decide whether Russia is or isn’t a threat and if it is spend accordingly I.e. closer to cold war/end of cold war spending.

Away from my soap box!! it would seem amis not to to develop an Aster 45 combining both aster and meteor technology. This could give massive AD coverage and alleviate some of the above.


Thats what the Royal Artillery does.
Its pointless having fixed sites, mobile units is the way to go.


I don’t disagree Duker but it is more nuanced than that as it depends on the mission and the type of the SAM. To make the most of any system you want mobile TELs regardless though .

If the mission is homeland defence then multiple pre-prepped sites would be primary means of deployment, as it would allow the TELs to park up and connect to power and the national sensor network. If the situation got ‘more dynamic’, or for deployed ops, the same TELs could then move on to genny power and deployable sensors to move with the assigned forces.

Within that basic structure, larger (longer range) ‘strat’ SAMs generally make better use of pre-prepped sites and medium to SHORAD systems are inherently more mobile.

While I don’t doubt SkySabre is a good system, for it to be a ‘step change’ for the U.K. shows how far behind we are in the game.

Stephen Jones

That’s a great many words saying nothing.

What ifs don’t equal spend commitments. There’s a lot of continental Europe to get over to get to us for anything flying with a red star on it. Remember it starts out somewhat farther back east now than it did back in the bad old days.

Hawks are subsonic at a time you are talking about mythical hypersonic threats?!. A Hawk would have precious little chance of catching a 747 let alone a bloody Backfire!.

We’re not getting much more than 2% on the defence budget because the electorate don’t give a stuff about defence and it’s a vote loser pouring money into weapons at a time when the NHS is running so short it can’t dole out free Smoking patches and boob jobs for moderately depressed millennials.

Seeing we’re not getting more money what we have can’t be sunk into useless systems like longer range SAMs that we will never use as it’s the light blues job to keep the skies clear at such range that there is scant direct threat to our green and pleasant lands. There may be fewer of them now but there’s fewer opposition aircraft too and the RAF won’t have a more pressing task at that time.


I have wondered that myself, INS would work for Land Attack but yeah…how can Zircon see? ?


Either zircon is a myth or plasma stealth is a myth. ICBM warheads re enter the earth at Mach 15 and can be tracked by radars.


Remember the low-high-low profile. I spoke about this a while ago. Zircon will be happily doing Mach 7+ at altitude using INS but must shed most of that speed to drop low and engage, i.e. Mach 3 tops with sensors active. It is in this terminal phase that it becomes unremarkable and basically the same as an Oniks / BrahMos etc. The flight time using INS only (against moving / repositioning targets) isn’t as much of an issue due to the extreme speed / short flight time. In contrast, LRASM say would use mid course update and lots of planning due to longer flight time.


To think any missile can go mach 9 at sea level without melting as a result of air friction is a pipe dream. It would take a solitary infrared homing missile to take it down. The thing would not be able to maneuvre at mach 9 either. It would also pull enormous g forces trying to turn. Fired from a submarine at short range may be a different matter.

There is obviously a great debate regarding supersonic versus stealthy subsonic anti ship missiles. There are many advantages in using subsonic missiles. Using LRASM gives an enormous advantage in the ability to use cheap subsonic decoys such as MALD (ADM-160). A solitary f18 can carry two LRASM and 8 MALD. A ship like the daring class would have to launch 10 missiles to intercept the salvo. I am not aware of any hypersonic or even supersonic decoys as they cost way too much and are just too big. Zircon reportedly weighs 5 tonnes.

In terms of targeting for the LRASM, the F35 just needs to sit below the Radar Horizon 50km away. (200 metres elevation) and occasionally pop up to then update targeting data. It then moves to a different location.

Captain Nemo

Norwegian firm Nammo are testing a ramjet they claim could push ESSM’s range from under a hundred out to four hundred kilometres at speeds approaching mach 5, significant given you can quad pack ESSM; it would be interesting to see what they could do with Aster, or indeed CAMM.


Wow, yeah, if that comes to fruition / lives up to the hype then there’s no need for any other air-breathing missile!!!…and quad-packed ?


It is never “too expensive and complex” to test weapons properly. This is part of the problem with the MOD’s procurement process, recently described by the PM’s advisor as a “farce” and it is designed to benefit the MOD’s suppliers, also described by the PM’s advisor as “corporate looters”.

No weapon should be introduced into the British military unless it has undergone realistic and accurate combat testing including live fires of the actual missile to demonstrate that they actually work in a real-life combat situation. As these tests have not occured, there is simply no way of knowing how these weapons would perform in the real world.

If you look at the history of air combat, if anything an 8 from 26 hit ratio is a high point compared to other conflicts eg. Vietnam, Serbia etc. Falklands War was also against pilots with poor training and countermeasures. Simulated tests of the sparrow radar guided missile prior to Vietnam showed kill ratios of above 80%, although actual combat effectiveness was less than 10% and then the planes being burdened by the need to carry a heavy radar and drag/weight from the missiles.

Maybe these weapons are better than those used in 1982? Who knows? They certainly cost more which is part of the reason the size of the Royal Navy is declining. Planes are capable of employing countermeasures against radar-guided missiles and pilots may use tactics to evade them.


David, it does not appear that sea viper has been tested in a realistic scenario involving multiple actual sea skimming supersonic missiles ‘crossing’. All engagements have been against sub sonic target drones. The French navy has shot down a solitary supersonic target drone using an Aster 30 with their Horizon frigate.

This may be the best air defense system available but the claim does not appear to be based on any solid testing. Testing allows you to troubleshoot unanticipated problems and improve tactical employment. I would hate to see a future royal commission into the sinking of the Queen Elizabeth by a supersonic sea skimming missile because the system had not been tested under combat conditions.

The Royal Australian Navy has however properly tested CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT/ESSM system including scenarios involving multiple simultaneous targets (including supersonic). An upgraded system (4x larger) is being built into the type 26 (Hunter class) frigates.

Interestingly when the RAN purchased the Eurotorp MU90 they also found that it was not adequately tested after being told it was combat ready and deployed. It was neither. It had never been fired against a surrogate target until the RAN tested it. It had a reliability rate of 7/11. Not testing weapons appears to be common place in this industry (at least in Europe).

The claim that they need less missiles deployed because the missile is superior to standard missile looks to be more hype than fact.


Very sad but true. Sadly the practice of purchasing weapons without adequately testing them appears endemic across current UK defence procurement. eg. the decision to commit to purchasing the F35 was made before such combat testing had even commenced. In almost any other industry this would be at least borderline in criminal-level negligence. Imagine the verdict in a coroners court if a car company sold a car to members of the public without actually testing it on real roads. Sadly this practice may endanger British defence personnel in actual combat situations.


The true test of a combat ship….is Combat. Same goes for anything aboard her


I realise that articles are articles and not encyclopaedia entries so they have to be short and relevant, but it is a shame this could only cover last two generations of area air defence missile as it means the absolute beast of thing that was Sea Slug couldn’t be covered, so if you’ll permit me to rectify that omission here in the comments with this:

Corin Vestey

I read somewhere that those 17 aircraft could potentially have launched over 200 missiles between them. Unlike the RN officer quoted I’d assume that the Russian pilots would seek to fire their missiles from maximum range. It is lucky that a show of force was all that was attempted, otherwise we’d all know how naive the RN/Treasury had been in terms of numbers of Aster actually carried that day and their prior reluctance to fund realistic testing against saturation attack.


In 1991 Gulf War HMS Gloucester T43 Batch 3 used its Sea Darts to shoot down a Mach 0.9 anti-ship Silkworm missile targeting the 58,000t USS Missouri battleship. Silkworm is not a sea-skimming missile but said to fly at height of 100-300 m, Chinese variant of Russian Styx dating back to the ’60s, sank the Israeli Eilat, widely exported and in common use by both Iran and Iraq in their war.

In 2012 the French Navy went to the expense of buying a USN GQM-163A SSST Coyote target drone and with the Horizon class Forbin carried out a successful interception with an Aster 30. The GQM-163 Coyote is a supersonic sea-skimming (~30 feet) target drone.

My understanding Sea Ceptor has never been tested against a supersonic sea-skimming target, only subsonic targets in Dec 2017 trials which presume used the Mirach and Firejet small aerial targets, max. speed 450/mach 0.6 & 530 mph/mach 0.7? It’s possible a T23 with Sea Ceptors escorting tankers is fired on by a Iranian Silkworm from shore or other anti-ship missiles in the Straits of Hormuz, positive outcome to be hoped for as Sea Ceptor has not yet tested against higher speed targets.


Thats right , those early Sikworms would cruise quite high until the terminal stage
This story covers the missile variants used by Iraq before GWII and the HMS Gloucester in very deep detail , and I mean very deep. It was far more complicated situation than commonly known
“HMS Gloucester initiated a hard turn to unmask the Sea Dart launcher. Firing nearly “over the shoulder” to starboard, two Sea Darts were launched, of which one hit the Iraqi missile. The entire event took 89 seconds.

The interception range varies with the account given; ranging from 2¾ NM to 4 NM away from HMS Gloucester, and 4 NM to 7 NM away from USS Missouri. Likewise the altitude of the intercept is debated, with USS Jarrett‘s history listing it at 375’ to visual witnesses aboard HMS London who estimated between 680′ – 1,000′.”


It was a pretty close engagement for sure. The ASHM wouldnt have sunk the mighty mo….but it would have left a big hole and many dead. Phalanx might have killed the missile but with that sized warhead and a full fuel payload detonating close to the ship it would have messed up Mo.


“Chinese variant of Russian Styx dating back to the ’60s, sank the Israeli Eilat,”

Yes but by 70’s the 76mm Oto melaras in Israeli fast missile boats downed 1 Styx in 2nd Battle of Latakia.


Indeed. Impressive from the 76mm Compact. Mind you Styx was big, slow and a much easier target than Harpoon/exocet. 76mm Compact wasnt rated for killing ASHMs (it was/is dual purpose but killing missiles is a much bigger degree of precision)…SR was the mount that was. USS Jarretts 76mm could have next engaged said missile had Seadart failed to kill it.


The wheel re-invented ?
The ASRAAM has another Concept Of Operation than the IRIS-T, AIM-9X and AA-11 Archer / R-73. The latter 3 types are relying at maximum agility, while the ASRAAM uses it’s very high speed to increase the No Escape Zone in the pre-merge.
The 99 / 100 kg, 3,20 m. long, 166 mm CAMMS / Sea Ceptor is loosely based at the 88 kg, 2,90 m. long, 166 mm diameter ASRAAM.
The ASRAAM rocket motor is probably optimized for airborne launching, which will occur mostly at 30,000 ft or higher. And with launch speeds between roughly Mach 0,8 – 1,8+. For launches at speeds of zero till 30 kts / 55 km per hour and at Sea Level. You will need to modify at least the composition of the rocket propellant. The ASRAAM missile airframe was stretched and needed modifications to accept the active radar guidance.

The most sources say that the ASRAAM and French MICA can both pull a maximum of 50 G. More than 1 sources claim that the Iris-T and Aster dart achieve a maximum of 60 G. Of course, we have to be careful with those public domain figures.
The Aster dart interceptor is because of it’s PIF-PAF control highly maneuverable.
If we suppose that the Sea Ceptor has the same G limits and those published specs are quite reliable. Than the Sea Ceptor has inferior agility at least at close-in ranges against terminally maneuvering Anti Ship Missiles.

The ASRAAM has a 22 lbs / 10 kg warhead and is probably applied to the Sea Ceptor too. Were the 112 kg and 180 mm thick Aster dart-interceptor comes with a considerably heavier warhead of 33 lbs / 15 kg. Which must give it a much higher Kill Probability.
So, why not give this Aster Dart a small ‘cold launch’ and vectoring thrust booster of the Sea Ceptor to turn this Dart into a Close-In Weapon. A frigate / destroyer armed with a mix of Aster-30’s, Aster-15’s and Aster-Darts gives you a lot of flexibility while maintaining a maximum level of commonality.

I am wondering if development of the Sea Ceptor really brings more military ‘added value’ or capabilities compared to an Aster-Dart.
In my opinion, the CAMMS / Sea Ceptor adds only more value to the defense industry.


Remember G is mostly determined by the speed of the missile. A missile turning at mach 3 has to pull over twice the G force to make the same turn as a missile travelling at mach 2. The figures are meaningless unless you also compare the speed of each missile at intercept.


Iris-T and ASRAAM are both used on Typhoon, but by different Nations and to different requirements. Both missiles share the same imaging infra-red seeker, but everything else is fundamentally different. ASRAAM was originally a NATO requirement, but only the UK continued with the program. Germany was also part of the program but changed their minds over the requirement, after getting their hands on the East German Mig 29s and their AA11 Archer. This missile when tested had significantly better manoeuvrability than the Sidewinder of the time and biased their design away from ASRAAM. Germany wanted a true knife-fighting missile and Iris-T represents this. It has the same diameter as Sidewinder and uses a similar sized rocket engine. It is supposed to be significantly more agile than both ASRAAM and Sidewinder. It uses a large amount of wing area to generate lift for tight turns, however, this has a downside as it generates much more drag. This has a knock on effect on the missile’s effective range. Compare this with ASRAAM. The missile is larger in diameter to house a larger rocket motor and its airframe is much sleeker. This was to meet the requirement of engaging an enemy aircraft before they got into their engagement zone for IR missiles. By having a sleeker missile with less wing area will make it less manoeuvrable. However, this could be compensated for by using thrust vectoring or pif-paf jets in the body. Iris-T was the first Western missile to show that it could be fired over the shoulder at a target behind the aircraft, Australia using a F18 did the same with ASRAAM ain 2009. Due to the much larger rocket motor in ASRAAM it is quite a bit faster than both Iris-T or Sidewinder, with perhaps double the range of Sidewinder. The actual range is classified, but drones shot down during Red Flag were at distances over 30km away. ASRAAM will accelerate to Mach 3 in under 3 seconds after leaving the rail. During the initial trials the missiles was fired from the ground at drone targets before it was used on a flying testbed aircraft.
The proposed future enhancements to both ASRAAM and SeaCeptor will put it nearly on par with Aster and Sidewinder X for manoeuvrability with the introduction of thrust vectoring. The current RF seeker in SeaCeptor is newer than that fitted to Aster, but they both still use a flat plannar array pulse doppler radar. If the tie in with Japan on developing Meteor with an AESA radar goes ahead, it would be conceivable that this technology filters down to Aster and SeaCeptor. However, MBDA have been talking about a combined RF and IR seeker for both ASRAAM and SeaCeptor, so we will have to wait and see what happens on that front.
There are a number of significant differences between Aster 15 and SeaCeptor. Aster is more manoeuvrable at the terminal phase due to its pif-paf jets, it is faster due its larger rocket motor, but to house the motor it is larger in diameter and doesn’t have folding fins, so takes up more space in a canister. SeaCeptor is still a Mach 3+ missile and has a newer RF seeker. Like Aster it is judged as a hit to kill missile, but like Aster has a proximity fuse just in case it misses. However, it can be packed into a smaller canister, or on Mk41/Sylver cells, four can be packed in to the same space as one Aster. It has a soft launch, which throws it clear of the ship before activating the rocket motor. This leaves the ship much cleaner as its not covered in rocket exhaust products. So for slightly less performance you can have four times the number of SeaCeptor missiles as one Aster – choices, choices, choices!
Aster has been used to target and destroy the Coyote target drone. In April 15, 2012, the French navy used an American GQM-163A Coyote SSST (Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target) missile, in a test of the Aster missile system on one of its Forbin class air-defense destroyers. The test was monitored by another Forbin class destroyer and was a success, target missile was destroyed. Coyote is a 10 meter (31 foot) long, 800 kg (1,700 pound) missile with combined solid fuel rocket and ramjet propulsion. It has a range of 110 kilometers and, because of the ramjet, a top speed of over 2,600 kilometers an hour (Mach 2.5+ at sea level). I have not been able to confirm if SeaCeptor has done the same, but I am sure I’ve read it somewhere, that it had been used to take out a supersonic target drone at the Hebrides range.

Captain Nemo

“Iris-T was the first Western missile to show that it could be fired over the shoulder at a target behind the aircraft”

For some reason I want to say Sidewinder AIM9-L.
It could be that my memory is failing me but I seem to recall that the ‘L’ variant was top of our wish list in 1982 and that the Americans kindly raided their stores to help us out.


AIM9/Lima was improved with a new seeker to be able to seek from all angles not just tail chase as in previous versions. So targets appraching could be fired upon rather than having to wait for the threat to fly away (As then the aircraft launching would have to be behind them at all times) It didnt have the ability to fire behind to aircraft shooting it ?


The earlier versions of Sidewinder were limited to +/-45 degrees, so basically a forward field of view of 90 degrees. This was true with a lot of other IR missiles and was due to the type of mechanical seeker they had fitted. The L/M and N models introduced a dual frequency seeker, which allowed the missile to target any part of the aircraft rather than just the hot tailpipe to give it an all aspect attack feature. It still had to be aimed at the target within the 90 degree window though. It wasn’t until the R version, where a focal plane array (much like a cameras charge couple device (CCD) was introduced that the objective view increased past 90 degrees of +/- 60 degrees. The new X variant uses the same seeker as ASRAAM and has a reputed field of view of +/-90 degrees. It also has a data-link, so it can be used with the helmet cueing system to give lock on after launch features. It has yet to be trialled to attack a target behind the parent aircraft using the over the shoulder technique. But as it uses thrust vectoring and the same seeker as ASRAAM it should theoretically be able to do so when cued by the helmet’s sight.

Captain Nemo

Many thanks to both of you for clarifying.
If I’m recalling the correct source material it was published near the time of the conflict in The Falklands and was probably in error, subject to either exaggeration or misinformation at the time.


Just found out that the MICA missile has this capability since 2017. It requires another Aircraft to target through link 16.


My understanding is that the aim9x and Asramm have the same seeker (planar array) developed by Hughes. IRIS-T has a completely different seeker developed for the original Asramm on a gimble mount.


I really cannot see the point of the Aster 15 on the type 45. It uses a complete launch cell that the Aster 30 does. Why fill the launch cell with a less capable missile? If they were able to quad pack it like the ESSM by redesigning the booster it would be a different situation.

I also find the idea of only needing to launch one missile interesting. The ESSM has an intercept probability of 0.91 (with out dated radars) . Two missiles gives a probability of intercept over 0.99. The ESSM has been tested using the CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT AESA radar system against multiple simultaneous supersonic targets in 2014. It hit a mach 3 crossing sea skimming target. It did not miss. What is the probability of Intercept of a single ASTER launched against a supersonic anti ship missile? Does anyone know? It will not be 1.0.

The seeker on the ESSM is also getting better, there is also work to make the rocket engine a ramjet significantly increasing range. It looks to me the combination of SM-6 and ESSM is a better choice than Aster 30 and 15. 48 launch cells could potentially give you a 99% chance of taking down up to 96 targets. 48 launch cells using Aster gives you a ?95% chance of taking down 48 targets.


Aster does not appear to have been adequately tested against Supersonic crossing sea skimming targets. Does anyone know how many supersonic targets have been shot down? I can only find that it has been tested once on a Horizon class frigate. I keep reading that the Sea viper system is the best in the world but cant find any hard data that proves it. Is this just more marketing?


Hi Steve, I think you may have just answered your own question.


“Several thousand Aster (in several variants) have now been manufactured for nine nations keeping unit cost down.”

Rumours that the RN didn’t have enough to equip all 6 destroyers is that really the case?

Great article btw

Captain Nemo

It’s really difficult to tell, my guess is we probably bought two or three hundred based on the little we know about numbers and pricing as below.

-The 3 billion euro contract was signed on Wednesday 12th November (2003)… The order covers series production of 18 SAMP/T Aster Block 1 missile batteries for the French army, French air force and Italian army and production of the Aster 15 SAAM (Surface-to-Air Anti-Missile system) vertical launch naval missile system for the French and Italian navies’ new aircraft carriers and frigates… The contract also covers 400 million euros placed by OCCAR on behalf of the UK MoD with MBDA’s wholly-owned subsidiary UKAMS for series production of Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles and support equipment
In total, the order covers production of almost 1400 Aster missiles plus logistic support, associated equipment and training for the three countries.

-As of 2012, France has spent €4.1bn at 2010 prices on 10 SAMP/T launchers, 375 Aster 30 missiles and 200 Aster 15 missiles.[8] Another 80 Aster 30 and 40 Aster 15 have been bought for France’s Horizon-class frigates under a separate programme.

Do we presume that the 575 missiles were part of that original contract and do we also presume that the Italian share was roughly equivalent?

This from 2018 would place an upper limit of 3m euros on Aster 30 even without taking the two ground batteries into consideration

-Sweden’s Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its annually updated arms trade register that Singapore acquired two systems and 200 Aster 30 missiles, with a reported contract value of €651 million (U.S. $805 million)

Rob N

Out of interest does anyone know when Sky Sabre (Land Ceptor) will go operational on tge Falklands? I think it was scheduled for 2020.


I remember we were exercising in the Caribbean on HMS Birmingham and we fired our SeaDart at an income American high speed target, the tellimentaty SeaDart was expected to just miss the target but flew straight through it pissing off the Yanks.

Erich W

To date, Sea Dart retains a unique place in history as the only missile to take out another missile in action

Not sure about this. Just look at the number of Russian missiles intercepted by Ukrainian SAMs. This has happened literally hundreds of times.

Even in terms of SAMs intercepting anti-ship missiles there is some precedent for this – US destroyers for instance intercepted Yemeni anti-ship missiles in 2016 a number of times. Even in the last few weeks there have been interceptions in the Red Sea. There’s also been other unconfirmed incidents or occasions where the information is limited/vague.