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Only 36 years from development to implementation, quite reasonable for the Royal Navy- presuming that there still will be a Senior Service at the end of the decade! Its about time that dozens of very senior serving officers started falling on their swords out of shame or condemning publicly the terrible state the Royal Navy finds itself in.


Perhaps before ranting you need to consider that Sea Venom is not being developed by the RN…
It’s being developed by MBDA for the RN and the French Navy. And before blasting MBDA, remember they are the company that developed Sea Ceptre/Sky Sabre/ CAMM, Aster, Brimstone, etc. In other words, they’re experienced and they know what they are doing.

david anthony simpson

Well said – frankly its too easy for uneducated armchair “admirals” to rant and sound off

Rob N

That may be the case but the rarity is that it is taking much too long…. experience aside it is taking too long.

Weapons are taking too long to get into service. Another example integration of Sea Ceptor on T45.

Gavin Gordon


We can probably all accept that more capable weapons systems take longer to integrate – whatever the background reasons – than their predecessors.

However, this situation only tends to emphasize the undue haste with which the UK continue to discard ‘an operational’ capability in preference for ‘an optimistic’ future capability.

There’s a finite limit to how long we can indulge the peace dividend mindset i.e. long after that peace has become delusional.



It has long since become delusional.


Strikes me the “uneducated” get that 36 years is too long unlike you better educated pros. If you had played the ball rather than the man we may have been educated. You were quite clearly unable to do so.


Get this straight Sean. I’m not ranting nor blasting MBDA, nor indeed any company involved in the production of armaments. They are all very competitive, they all know how to adjust the bottom line and as you say they are all very experienced. If you were told that the house you were having built would now take 25 years and cost three times as much there would only be two words in Anglo Saxon that would cross your lips! My problem with the serving Senior management of the Royal Navy is that they do not understand Anglo Saxon and they seem to be living on promises in the distant future whilst the present Royal Navy rots away.


Delays, delays and more delays combined with a load of lame excuses seem to be a UK military specialty….


I don’t understand the position from the article. We know weight testing and balance in flight has been extensively tested on the Wildcat and data gained for operational use. We know at least one variant was fired from a Dauphin helicopter in a 2020 MBDA test. We know it transmitted IR images, it received targetting adjustments in flight, and it hit the target. So I don’t get it.

  • Does the tech actually work or not?
  • Does the tech for an interim variant work?
  • Why was an interim variant necessary?
  • Has any version been successfully integrated on the Wildcat?
  • Has any version been successfully integrated on Panthers or NH90s?
  • Are we just waiting on capability incidentals, like maintenance or simulation testing, before certification and “full weapon system capability”?
  • Has IOC for any variant actually been declared, rather than dates for IOC?

If anyone can cast any clarity other than the dates rolling into the future, I’d love to hear it.

Jim Camm

Yes, only getting “ongoing integration challenges continue to present time and cost challenges” by way of explanation is hardly sufficient when we’re talking about tax-payer money footing the bill and our national security being compromised because of these capability gaps.


Don’t assume it’s all to do with aircraft integration.
Magazines will need work to take the missiles stowed as they are in their handing palletrolleys. These palletrolleys will need to be moved in and out of stowage racks by handling equipment that wasn’t designed to move them. T23 missile stowage (skua/venom) is on top of the torpedo stowage racks.These will need to be altered possibly with strengthening and hot work. That’s going to require the mag to be empty. The Mech Handler along with the new racks will need to be proven and tested with the new palletrolley and load tested.
Training for WE Dept mag handling crews will be required along with whole ship safety training for the weapon being onboard.
Not everything is WAFU orientated.


Aircraft integration was what the Minister was talking about.

None of what you are discussing clarifies where we are now, interesting and educational as it is (I love it when you fill in reality gaps). Are Sea Venom timescales constrained by missile tech, capability problems or both? Or is it just cash and will? All the stuff you are talking about seems to covered by the Navy quote that says three years to do aircraft and ship mods to reach FOC. FOC not IOC, so that’s clear enough (even though how many ships and copters are included isn’t mentioned). However Cartlidge says three years before we even start rolling out final aircraft mods. So from his answer, 2026 isn’t necessarily IOC for the full technical capability.

Is this like 1SL: “we can’t possibly get an anti-ship missile in place before 2027 so it’s not worth buying one.” New 1SL: “We’ll have NSM operational in 2024.” Reality: we’ll probably test fire it before the end of this year? If so, that’s cash and will.

If we gave Sea Venom to Ukraine, how long before they could fire them and would they hit what they are aimed at? If as I suspect the answer is months and yes, the issue is probably cash and will. For example was Somerset upgraded for Sea Venom along with the NSM upgrades?

Last edited 8 months ago by Jon
Supportive Bloke

Ok – let’s speculate – it is fun.

Could it be to do with how the missile is cued?

The hint might be in the last SINKEX?

Is it to do with the IOC being cued from the ship?

Whereas FOC is cued from something else?

This is to do with the cab being below the radar horizon for sure.

But if the legs of cab + missile range are not greater than NSM then I’m not seeing the point of adding a missile type?

All speculation as I have zero knowledge on this.


I think IOC would have to be direct control from the helicopter. Waiting to have the ability to target from the ship or elsewhere before providing an interim capability would be bizarre. We know the tdl roll-out on Wildcat is said to be over the next few years, and the demonstrator is already flying so that could be accelerated. However, I think a lot more work will need to be done to achieve remote targetting and keeping the helicopter below the horizon at all times. Tdl is necessary, not sufficient. We are in the middle of a problematic capability gap post-Skua; surely we can’t be waiting for remote targetting.

NSM’s range is between 100 and 150 mi. Wildcat combat range is far greater than that. Given the duration of the Sea Venom programme I don’t see the very recent decision to introduce NSM impacting on it just yet.

Supportive Bloke

I agree IOC is helicopter based.

I speculate that the ‘something else’ is more sophisticated than ships radar for FOC.

It could also be to do with fitting VLS to T31 and T26.

That way Cruise / FCAS can be used with 1000km range so the need for this is mitigated?

It may also be to do with shifting resources around to pay for the Mk41 VLS for T31 and the 11 NSM sets that have been bought?


I would point out that there is a NSM-HL version currently being integrated on Indian MH-60R helicopters.


I’m not sure “Ukrainian integrations” are a good comparison. They are doing the minimum to get a lunchable missile. Safety and ease of operation are secondary to them but shouldn’t be to the RN.

Paul Bestwick

Lol made me laugh with the typo, lunchable ???? tasty tasty very very tasty.


You are right. It was my cack-handed way of asking if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the missile. I’m trying to narrow down the reason for it taking three more years to get an aircraft certification, and possibly significantly longer to reach IOC.


The venom is a ‘close match’ in size to the previous Skua
Skua 145 kg L= 2.5m D=0.25m
venom 120kg L=2.5m D=0.2m

Its not going to need much shipboard magazine integration


Its a different PT that holds it. My understanding is that the new PT is not the same dimensions as the old Skua PT 15 ( Its Longer) hence the need to alter the mag stowage. As I said the T23 mag handler, a Heath Robinson bit of kit at the best of times, will need to be tested and cleared to move the things and a whole new handling drill proven and issued. That will be part of the clearance for use. The WAFUs just load it and fly it. The WE Dept stow it in their magazines and look after it. All that needs to be in place as well…its the usual System of Systems thing that gets forgotten about.

Getting a Wildcat cleared for use means squat if the missile isnt cleared for stowage onboard. They can ( and no doubt will) issue a CCU to allow it to be used onboard with certain caveats ( as they do for every system). As the CCU details are classified it is speculation on my part but I have seen and operated plenty of WE systems under CCUs in the past…Some WE systems came into service and left service with CCUs in place that where never cleared meaning the system never actually achieved formal Acceptance!


While I agree with everything you just said, the Ukrainians would bypass formal acceptance & be IOC within 2 hours. I sometimes wonder how well modern military/civilian bureaucracy would handle the Falklands in 2023, let alone WW3.

Gavin Gordon

Not commenting directly on your main gist, however with China’s interest in F.Is, strikes me ‘the Falklands in 2023, let alone WW3′ are one and the same.

Jim Camm

MBDA has been testing the missile since 2017, I doubt the geometry & mass spec of the missile have changed since then.
If integration into magazines and ammunition handling was an issue, they could have asked for a few inert training rounds YEARS ago to get the work on the ship side sorted ahead of time and in parallel with other work on the missile (stuff like that shouldn’t need to happen sequentially with all the other integration tasks).

The magazines will be emptied during scheduled maintenance anyway. I know the answer is probably funding & procedural but so much work could be being done on these ships towards upgrades while the ships are alongside, outside of their deployment phase.
That doesn’t just go for these magazine upgrades, but we could be doing all the prep work ahead of the Sea Viper upgrade (like installing missile silos, installing the new cable runs etc) so when it comes to finishing the upgrade you don’t have to schedule such a lengthy out of service period half a decade in advance, you could fit it into the normal maintenance schedule… you just need to employ the people to do it, which costs money, but considering under the current schedule, the upgrades are to be done not long before the retirement of these ships, if you can do them 3 years earlier, the cost per year of service (ie part of the value proposition) would likely be less (better value).

Trevor G

One of the recurring themes of UK weapons procurement seems to involve huge R &D costs over very long time scales, followed by modest orders, resulting in eye watering development costs per unit. Nearly £1bn (and counting) on a purely notional 1000 units means an all up cost per round of £1 million plus the entire cost of actual production. What targets are envisaged for it?


£1 bill ( its was 945.3 mill in the answer) isnt the ‘cash spent’ cost, nor did the minister say as much.
His term was ‘assessed’ which indicates its a full programme cost over its life as is normal with MoD. Think of it as development , testing and integration, production and their maintenance and upgrades.
Who knows how much as been spent already but if full production hasnt commenced it may be in the order of £200 mill.
this is based on the way the P-8 order for RAF was inflated in the program cost given out by MoD. The US navy is required to make public is contract costs and the variable annual P-8 production for 12-19 planes was given
$2.45 bill for 19 planes in 2019 ( contract to run over a few years) gives an average per plane cost in that block buy of $130 mill.[ roughly equivalent to £100-110 mill] theres some other costs on top of that especially training and spares over a long period with a simulator plus the RAF had a multi year maintenance contract with Boeing and a new large wide span hangar built at Lossiemouth

Trevor G

Many thanks for additional info – I was responding to the original article wording which has now been corrected.


Glacially slow development and a pretty hefty price-tag for what it offers.

These aren’t quick or easy fixes but British procurement suffers from 2 deeply ingrained cultural problems…..

  1. A real lack of spiral development with incremental variants of existing systems/platforms over decades. Instead we seem to introduce a bit of kit in smallish numbers, don’t invest in keeping it relevant, scrap it and then try and reinvent the wheel with a whole new program.
  2. Requirements are still very much in silo’s with specific items procured by different parts of the services to fill similar or overlapping capabilities.

 £1Bn !?
There are several words for this and none is pretty.

Peter S

Since the costs have been shared 50/50 with France, ” merde” would do.


Sea Venom was assessed at £945.3 million and remains within the programme risk tolerance levels.

Actual wording doesnt say ‘spent’ and they normally ‘mean’ full program costs over many many years. if they dont have enough money they just buy less even though unit cost at the end maybe quite minimal say £ 2.5 mill each

david anthony simpson

Advanced precision weaponry is not cheap – and £1Bn is not unduly expensive by today’s pricing standards


How much it will cost a missile? .If it is above 250000 is already too much.

Btw this missile seems completely dead in French military discussions. No one talks about it. like if do not exists.

A British Tom

Why didn’t they just go with a navalised version of brimstone?


Five times the size of the warhead and a different guidance system?


Bigger missile with a way longer range.


I think people still believe that Sea Venom actually has a range of c20km….


And we hope for the Future ASM to be ready in 2028 and installed on HMS Glasgow. Apart from CAMM which was heavily supported and led by DE&S from the early 00s to keep MBDA busy whilst aiming to replace Rapier, which missile programmes have ever been delivered on time and let not mention TRIGAT.


since the French are also using the missile, where are they on ioc/foc?


French are not using the missile. There have been silence from them about it, they don’t seem to be moving to test and install it in the NH-90.


Is this why the RN has ‘gone cold’ on the missile too but it doesnt yet want to announce “reprioritising and saving money” when its killed stone dead and £100-200 mill wasted ?


I still think this missile is needed. But it should have been much cheaper. South Koreans use the Spike NLOS a bit lighter an it is about $250000 a piece.


We dont know what the per unit price of the venom is to compare but Spike is much lighter smaller warhead weapon.
But interesting the South Korea with its Wildcats has both dipping sonar and the this fairly capable weapon.
Some sources say the Spike-NLOS latest version development under the name of Exactor was financed by Britain for the Royal Artillery


70kg vs 120kg i think. But if 2023 6ºGen the Spike NLOS will have 50km range from helicopter. Sea Venom is listed at plus 20km. but will have a bigger charge. Still a mission kill can be achieved by both.

Last edited 7 months ago by AlexS

Spike NLOS for South Korea is principally not used for Anti shipping….


Those in coastal installation and in navy helicopters yes they are.

Btw Philippines Wildcats not only have Spike NLOS and torpedoes but also Mistral AAM’s.

Peter S

Problems with key sub systems were first reported in the 2019 Defence Equipment Plan, with IOC slipping to 2022. The further slippage suggests the issues have not yet been fully resolved.
Project costs to completion had fallen from an initial estimate of £392m to £363m. These costs do not include bulk purchase of missiles.
I can find no indication that France has declared IOC.

Just Me

Sea Venom – too small, too limited, and very late to the party.


I will bite…

Why ?

Come on. Give some details on why you think that or is it just a pithy soundbite?

Just Me

Unit cost of this boondoggle is not far short of the vastly longer ranged and far more lethal Naval Strike Missile.


Not used from helicopters and fired at close range against speedboats and fast attack craft is it


Martlet can handle those targets. Sea Venom is also for corvettes, smaller frigates and similar sized ships. That probably covers all the current Russian surface combatant production other than maybe the Gorshkovs.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jon

Im pretty sure the NSM would be used against corvettes, frigates etc, the venom is just not enough unless its a lucky shot or 2 at critical points. These types of vessels have longer range strike of their own and would be best taken on at greater distance than the helicopter/venom.


By the time you are within the 8km firing range of the Martlet, you are already long time within the firing range of KalibrOniksZircon anti-ship cruise missiles let alone the 130mm naval gun range.
A 3kg warhead of Martlet against a 4500 ton ADMIRAL GORSHKOV-CLASS and you will need a sh^*t load of them,

Last edited 7 months ago by Boris

You will have 8 NSM on a ship that need external targeting to realise their full range potential.
Reloading at sea via RAS will be to be honest impracticable, so Shoot them and they are gone. Harpoon could not be reloaded via RAS. Exocet reload was done in extremis in early 83 on 2 x T22 down South at a secure and sheltered anchorage. I was on one of the T22s and was involved with the evolution as a baby Tiff. It was completed via rafting up and using the Fort Austin’s crane.

Venom. Helo can carry 4 with at least 2 full reloads held onboard. Replacement weapons can be supplied to the ship by RAS jackstay and will be transferred across as Skua was in their dedicated stowage and handling Palletrolleys. The helo can land on another unit and use that vessels stored Venom to reload which you cannot do with NSM.

A Wildcat will use its ESM and PID/TI to identify targets passively be that NSM or Venom. It can use its radar but that is going to give an indication to an enemy unit that it is being targeted. A Wildcat with Venom can engage at long range organically, NSM cannot. A Wildcat with Venom is going to outrange an NSM by a considerable margin. The PID/TI has a ridiculous visual range on it for ID’ing targets.

Rob N

The thing will be old tech by the time it enters service. Could we not have bought something off the shelf?


Old tech?
IIR seeker , the same tech as NSM…Data Linked with Man in the loop if needed… Passive so no ESM alerts on the target. The targeted unit will need a radar on to detect it or have a very good passive 360 deg optical ID system on it.


There are no other credible heli-launched AShM’s anywhere….

Remember Sea Skua was a bit of an oddity (with the possible exception of the Penguin)….it was also arguably the most combat effective AShM ever…


The original answer looks like saying it is the modification of Wildcat. which is limiting the full operation. So, it is not SeaVenom, but Wildcat?

Also. it says “full operation” capability. So, initial operation can be achieved more earlier?


probably means ‘enough missiles bought’ to fully equip the helicopter fleet plus reserve stocks
The previous capability was given up a decade back and now the replacement doesnt have money allocated for normal production at 2023 costs to equip the wildcat squadrons

Andy M

It was originally supposed to enter service at the same time as WIldcat so it’s a decade late. If ever a weapon system was a waste of money this is it. The money wasted on this could have given our DD/FF a 24/7 SSGW capability years ago.


It will be out of date before it’s certified.

look, if you can’t certify something like this in 18 months then it’s not worth having.

it’s not a nuclear missile for gods sake..

10 yrs is embarrassing


As I said…Some RN systems, radar, command systems, sonar, weapons etc never ever achieve Fleet Weapon Acceptance and where in use for decades but with some caveats on their use detailed in the CCU ( Certificate of Clearance for Use).
Some of the issues in CCUs highlight minor issues that come to light during testing and actual use and these are usually cleared eventually by MODs or Software upgrades. Other issues could never be cleared and where lived with throughout the equipment’s life.