In a burst of fire and smoke, Royal Navy warship HMS Defender has tested her world-beating missile system off the coast of Scotland. Blasting from the Type 45 destroyer’s silo, the missile flew four times the speed of sound before obliterating an incoming drone target designed to simulate a projectile attack on the ship. It marks the first time HMS Defender has taken on this particular type of target – one that is significantly more challenging as it flies faster and lower than others before it. The missile firing took place as part of NATO Exercise Formidable Shield. It proves the Portsmouth-based ship’s ability to defend herself and other ships around her from attack.
Just two and a half seconds after erupting from HMS Defender’s silo, the missile accelerates to more than four times the speed of sound – otherwise known as Mach 4. High over the seas, it then manoeuvres at G-forces which no human being could withstand, to close in and destroy the target. Sea Viper is the combination of the Sampson radar system – the distinctive spinning spiked ball on top of a Type 45 destroyer’s main mast – and the Aster missile system which sits in a silo on the ship’s forecastle. The system tracks aircraft and other objects across thousands of cubic miles of airspace, identifies threats, and destroys them when necessary.
These were all put to the test during Exercise Formidable Shield with almost every nation involved firing missiles throughout the 10-day exercise. Equipped with a Wildcat helicopter from Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron, state-of-the-art Sampson radar and the Sea Viper missile system, HMS Defender was a potent addition alongside nine other navies at the Hebrides range in Scotland. Led by the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, the exercise was the largest of its type with 13 ships, more than 10 aircraft and in excess of 3,300 personnel taking part. Lieutenant Commander Ben Shirley, HMS Defender’s Weapon Engineer Officer, said: “Maintaining relationships and our ability to work with other nations is vital to the defence of the UK.
HMS Defender is the fifth of the Type 45 or Daring-class air-defence destroyers built for the Royal Navy. She is the eighth ship to bear the name. Defender’s construction began at the BAE Systems Naval Ships (now part of BAE Systems Surface Ships) yard at Govan on the River Clyde in July 2006. The ship completed her first sea trials in October–November 2011, and was commissioned during March 2013. The Type 45 destroyer, also known as the D or Daring class, is primarily designed for anti-aircraft and anti-missile warfare and is built around the PAAMS (Sea Viper) air-defence system utilizing the SAMPSON AESA and the S1850M long-range radars.