Recent incidents where both merchant and military shipping have been attacked by manned and unmanned surface and air systems armed with explosive devices, underlines the risks faced by Royal Navy units deployed.
Following on from tests of the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) from a moving platform the UK MoD requested Thales demonstrate the capability of LMM fired from a ship against these threats at sea.
Thales, working with MSI Defence, demonstrated the precision strike of the Lightweight Multirole Missile from the Type 23 frigate, HMS Sutherland. Working closely with ship staff and DE&S, the Thales/MSI team successfully engaged small unmanned surface targets closing the ship rapidly and manoeuvring.
After first proving that the gun could still fire accurately with the missile fitted – 120 rounds obliterated a large red ‘killer tomato’ target – and that the sensors behind LMM could track its radio-controlled foe at ranges of up to five kilometres.
Finally, four missiles were fired – one to test the effect of LMM ‘blasting off’ from its launcher on the gun mounting and the side of Sutherland (the missile accelerates to one and a half times the speed of sound in an instant), three packed with telemetry to measure the missile’s accuracy (ordinarily the weapon carries a 3kg warhead).
All was recorded by high resolution cameras so the team from manufacturers Thales and military scientists could analyse the effects in minute detail.
HMS Sutherland’s Commanding Officer, Tom Weaver said: “The impressive result of this trial was achieved through the hard work and cooperation of a wide array of industry and defence partners and it was rewarding for Sutherland to have played such a key role in its success.”
The rapid integration of LMM onto the MSI 30mm gun demonstrates how Thales can quickly develop cost-effective high capability solutions to meet the evolving threats faced by our naval forces. The success of the trial was a true team effort and delivery was only possible due to the outstanding contributions of HMS Sutherland’s crew.
Small naval threats are very problematic due to their high mobility, small signature and sever background clutter. LMM’s stabilising system, guidance and precision strike capability make it ideal for a ‘cluttered’ naval environment. It ensures accurate target tracking and allows operators to guide the missile onto its target regardless of sea spray or platform motion.
On track for delivery in 2020 to arm the Wildcat helicopter, LMM offers the Royal Navy, through re-use of current investment, an affordable solution to counter the range of threats faced by maritime units operating in potentially high-threat environments.
Prior to LMM entering service with the Royal Navy, LMM will enter service with the Royal Marines and Royal Artillery Air Defence units in 2019. LMM will provide these units with complementary capability to the in-service STARStreak HVM system.