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Royal Navy’s destroyers to get 50% more surface to air missiles in a £500 million upgrade

Having a legacy of being ‘Ruler of the Seas’, the British naval supremacy has long gone compared to its contemporaries. With the flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth pounding Islamic State via its latest F-35 fighter jets, the Royal Navy is planning for something more.

The new trend in British military doctrine focuses more on quality enhancement than relying over quantity. It also means consolidating the existing military assets and investing in more advanced technologies for future warfare while reducing numbers even further — and the Royal Navy is no exception.

Under a new refit program, the Navy’s Type 45 guided missile destroyers will get a capability enhancement of more surface to air missiles, increasing its SAM loadout by 50%.

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Recently, the UK Ministry of Defence announced a £500 million upgrade to the Type 45 (Daring class) destroyers, by awarding MBDA UK to integrate the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) programme, often referred to as Sea Ceptor, into the Type 45 destroyers’ Sea Viper weapon systems. Each ship in the class would receive 24 launch cells for new missiles- taking the total number of SAMs on each destroyer to 72.

Let me break it down into simple terms- the Type 45 destroyers have the primary role of providing area defence (anti-aircraft/anti-missile) for UK’s Carrier Strike Group. It utilises state-of-the-art radars, sensors, and electronic warfare systems cued with surface-to-air missiles (Aster-15 for short-range and Aster-30 for long-range) to conduct its operations.

And now, these ships are getting a capability upgrade, in which they will be fitted with a new 24-round VLS (Vertical Launch System) silo for Sea Ceptor missiles developed by MBDA UK. According to the sources, this addition will be done in front of the existing 48-cell Sylver launcher for Aster 15 and Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles.

The 48-cell A50 Sylver Vertical Launching System on Daring

The role for short-range Aster-15 missiles will be completely taken over gradually by 24 Sea Ceptor missiles, while the 48-cell Sylver launcher will be used exclusively for Aster-30.

Compared to the Aster-15, the Sea Ceptor is just one-third its weight and can engage targets with better accuracy. In addition, the Aster-30s will also receive “a refresh”, which is covered in a separate 10-year contract with Eurosam. According to TheWarZone, the Aster-30 upgrade is being completed as part of a wider program, together with the navies of France and Italy, which also use the missile for outer-layer defense. It would also mean that Aster-30s will be in use throughout Type 45’s lifespan till a projected replacement by Type 83 destroyers in late 2030s.

To the upgrade, the Royal Navy’s fleet commander Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd CBE said, “These programmes will provide an exceptional capability to the front line, ensuring the RN remains poised to defend the surface fleet, and most importantly the Carrier Strike Group, against complex air threats both now and into the future.”

According to the UK MoD, both these contracts with MBDA for Sea Ceptor and with Eurosam for Aster-30 will support over 100 highly-skilled jobs in Bristol, Stevenage, Gosport and Bolton, and will develop cutting-edge air defence systems of the Type 45 destroyers.

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