Wildcat helicopter crews have proved a new missile’s ability to protect the UK’s aircraft carriers.
Fired live from Wildcat HMA Mk2 for the first time, the Martlet weapons system procured by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) has been successfully tested at MOD Aberporth off the Welsh coast.
Launched from the platform in 0.3secs, the telemetry missile accelerated to one-and-a-half times the speed of sound (992 nautical mph).
This marks a significant milestone in the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapons (FASGW) programme, which will arm the helicopters that deploy as part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Strike Group on its maiden operational voyage next year.
Captain Mark Langrill, DE&S’ Wildcat Delivery Team leader, said: “These firings mark a vital step forward in the integration of the uniquely flexible Martlet missile into what is already an outstanding helicopter to provide the Royal Navy with a world-class capability.
“I am grateful to all those across industry and the Ministry of Defence who have worked so hard to achieve this milestone.”
Managed by the Lightweight & Medium Attack Systems (LMAS) and Wildcat delivery teams, Martlet incorporates the versatile lightweight multirole missile (LMM) – developed by Thales in Belfast – soon to enter service with the Navy and Army in the short-range air defence role.
Preparation for the series of test firings was conducted in line with current Government social distancing rules due to coronavirus, adding an extra hurdle for the teams involved to overcome.
Wildcat Maritime Force Commander Matthew Boulind said: “The successful test firing shows the Wildcat helicopter will be ready to help defend our Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their strike groups for years to come.
“The Royal Navy and Army introduced Wildcat helicopters into service five years ago. The firing of the Martlet today is a very significant milestone and represents a huge success for the joint industry and MOD team.”
The firing was captured with high-resolution cameras so the teams from Thales and Leonardo Helicopters – which manufactures the Wildcat in Yeovil – can analyse the system trials in minute detail.
Martlet has already been successfully launched off the frigate HMS Sutherland, but its primary role will be on-board Wildcat.
Philip McBride, general manager of Integrated Airspace-protection Systems at Thales UK, said: “Martlet will ensure the Wildcat has the best-in-class offensive capability to protect the carrier strike group.
“With each helicopter capable of carrying up to 20 missiles, the Wildcats deployed will be a significant deterrent to anyone wishing to interfere with UK interests.”