Offering an important new defensive capability for the fleet against small boats, the Martlet LMM has been successfully test-fired from the DS30M Mark II cannon mount on a Type 23 frigate.
The Thales LMM (to be called Martlet in RN service) has always been intended to arm the RN’s Wildcat helicopters and is expected to enter service next year. The cannon-mounted LMM concept has been around for some time and was first exhibited by MIS Defence Systems in 2011. It would appear the RN only decided to procure a similar ship-mounted system as recently as February 2019 and the first tests were conducted on HMS Sutherland in the Irish Sea in late June.
Firstly 120 rounds were fired from the 30mm mount which proved it was still accurate with the weight of the attached missiles. Then four LMMs were fired at remote-controlled boat targets. The laser-based guidance of the LMM can track targets at up to 5km, although the missile can reach as far as 8km. The missile accelerates rapidly to mach 1.5 and carries a small 3kg warhead. It is intended to be an inexpensive way to deal with multiple small and hard-manoeuvring targets such as speed boats, suicide craft, jet skis, USVs and UAVs.
“The current defence against fast inshore attack craft, the 30mm gun, is highly effective for closer range engagements,” said Lieutenant Commander George Blakeman, HMS Sutherland’s Weapon Engineer Officer. “By adding the missile to the gun mount it is anticipated it will extend the reach of the ship’s defensive systems – key to a successful defence against fast craft using swarm attack tactics.” Although the decision might have been made sooner, it is encouraging to see new a new weapon being quickly tested and brought into service, proof the RN is trying to become more agile in its procurement process. Recent events in the Arabian Gulf have demonstrated this is a very sensible investment for the RN and let us hope it can be rolled out across the fleet as fast as quickly possible. The MoD ordered 1,000 LMMs back in 2011 for use with Wildcat and it may see widespread use. There is a perception that RN vessels are under-armed and this is a welcome addition to firepower against asymmetric threats.