AgustaWestland has received a GBP90 million (USD153.8 million) contract amendment from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) under which it will integrate the respective 'Light' and 'Heavy' variants of the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) onto the Royal Navy's (RN's) new Wildcat HMA.2 small ships' helicopter.
Signed in June, the integration contract was formally announced by Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology (DE&S) Philip Dunne on 15 July at the Farnborough Airshow. Work is expected to result in an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) being achieved for both FASGW variants on Wildcat by late 2020.
Designed to replace the current Sea Skua anti-ship missile, which will be retired in 2017, the FASGW programme embraces two distinct programme strands: FASGW(L), designed to counter small boat and fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) threats, is based on exploitation of the laser beam-riding variant of the Thales Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM); FASGW(H), designed to address larger targets up to corvette size, is to be delivered by MBDA under the French/UK Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy)/Anti-Navire Léger (FASGW[H]/ANL) programme. FASGW(H)/ANL will be known by the name Sea Venom in RN service.
The MoD has sought to harmonise the introduction of FASGW(L) and FASGW(H) on the Wildcat HMA.2 through the award of a single integration contact to AgustaWestland. This work will be primarily carried out at the company's facility in Yeovil, Somerset.
Under the contract, AgustaWestland will take responsibility for integration, trials, and certification of the two missile systems according to a joint integration schedule. "We plan to bring both to fruition at the same time," said Graham Hunter, Wildcat team leader in DE&S. "That avoids the additional costs that would come from running two sets of trials, Releases To Service, and certifications."
"We are currently planning to achieve IOC in October 2020," Hunter added. "However, we have an aspiration to move IOC to the left."
A Preliminary Design Review for integration is scheduled for late 2015, with a Critical Design Review to follow in 2016. "Integration would complete in 2018," said Hunter, "to be followed by trials, Release To Service, and type certification."
Flight tests of LMM (FASGW[L]) and Sea Venom (FASGW[H]) are currently planned to run from late 2018 through to late 2019. Trials will be performed on the Hebrides range off northwest Scotland, and possibly also on the Aberporth range in west Wales.
In the FASGW(L) application, LMM weapons will be carried in a five-round launcher (with each Wildcat able to carry up to four launchers); an active laser guidance unit integrated within the L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret will support laser beam-riding guidance.
As regards FASGW(H), the 'drop-launch' Sea Venom missile is a 110 kg-class high-subsonic guided weapon incorporating an imaging infrared seeker (with provisions for an additional semi-active laser guidance channel), a two-way datalink for operator-in-the-loop control, and a 30kg warhead. Range will be up to 25 km.
The Wildcat HMA.2 will be able to carry up to four five-round LMM launchers (two per weapon carrier), or up to four Sea Venom missiles (again two on each weapon carrier). Alternatively, it will be able to carry a mixed load of two LMM launchers (inboard) and two Sea Venom missiles (outboard) for maximum mission flexibility.
The FASGW integration contract forms an amendment to AgustaWestland's existing Wildcat prime contract, through which the company is under contract to deliver 62 Wildcat helicopters to the UK comprising: 34 AH.1 variants for use by the Army Air Corps (AAC); and 28 HMA.2 aircraft for the RN. A total of 33 Wildcats have been delivered to date, of which 21 have gone to the AAC, and 12 to the RN.