LONDON — Development of a short-range weapon to protect Royal Navy warships from fast jets and sea-skimming missiles has been given the green light by the British government.
Sources here said missile builder MBDA and the Ministry of Defence signed the deal just before the end of the year but have kept the move under wraps.
Neither the contractor nor the MoD was prepared to comment on the missile contract.
The Future Local Area Air Defence System (Maritime) program will provide a new-generation weapon to replace the long-serving Seawolf missile currently employed by the Royal Navy, when it goes out of service in 2016.
Details of the plan to develop the weapon based on MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) are scarce but the source said the deal could be worth in the region of 500 million pounds ($784 million).
The missile is expected to be initially deployed on existing Type 23 frigates but will later be used on the upcoming Type 26/Global Combat Ship.
Future iterations of the weapon are destined to replace the Rapier ground-to-air missile deployed by the British Army, as well as provide technology insertions for the Royal Air Force’s Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile on which the CAMM is loosely based.
CAMM is one of six missile programs placed into an assessment phase in 2008 by the MoD/industry partnership known as Team Complex Weapons.
The Team CW scheme was launched by the then-Labour government in 2006, ending competition over a range of weapons and bringing together the skills of the leading weapon suppliers here such as MBDA, Thales UK and QinetiQ in an effort to maintain sovereign capabilities at a time of declining demand for new weapons.
Other programs being looked at include an update of the Storm Shadow cruise missile, development of the ground-launched Fire Shadow loitering munition, light and heavy future anti-surface guided weapons, and air-to-ground precision weapons.
Late last year also saw the government extend the assessment phase of Thales UK’s work on the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) using its Lightweight Multirole Missile.
The missile will be fitted to the AgustaWestland Wildcat naval helicopters due in service by the middle of the decade.