UK’s most advanced portable missile system is thought to have shot down a drone in its first use on the Ukrainian battlefield. Ukrainian paratrooper intercepting a Russian UAV using a UK-supplied LMM MARLET in Kharkiv Oblast. The missiles were donated by the UK as part of a package of military aid. Martlet is a lightweight air-to-surface, surface-to-air, and surface-to-surface missile developed by Thales Air Defence for the United Kingdom. Developed as the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) to meet the UK’s “Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (Light)” requirement, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) placed an initial order for 1,000 missiles with deliveries due to start in 2013.
The UK supplied Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles to help it defend its skies from Russian invasion. It is vital that Ukraine maintains its ability to fly and suppress Russian air attack. In response to Ukrainian requests, the UK government has taken the decision to explore the donation of STARStreak and MARLET man-portable anti-air missiles. The UK believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons, but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies. So far, Ukraine has praised Britain’s contribution of thousands of NLAW anti-tank missiles which have helped slow the Russian advance on Kyiv.
The Lightweight Multirole Missile missile was given the name “Martlet” in British service. The missile was initially conceived as Thales’ response to the MoD’s Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) FASGW(L) requirement. It was designed to be launched from a variety of naval, air and land platforms against a wide range of targets. It uses a dual targeting system, utilizing both laser guidance and infrared homing, and has an operational range of 8 kilometers (5 miles). Development began in 2008 and the LMM uses technology from an earlier Thales (formerly Shorts Missile Systems) missile, the Starstreak.
The Martlet missiles heritage goes back much further than that, though, and its origin is a surface to air missile, not air to surface missile. Javelin replaced Blowpipe and Javelin-S15 (Starburst) replaced Javelin, which was then replaced by Starstreak HVM, much of the technology has evolved into the Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile. Instead of developing aerodynamic data for a new missile design, Thales used data from Starburst as the starting point, a cost-effective and wholly sensible approach. The dual-effect (blast fragmentation and shaped charge) of the LMM’s warhead makes it suitable for use against a wide range of ground targets including light/medium armour.