The UK Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll has successfully conducted first shipborne firings of the GWS 35 Sea Ceptor local area anti-air missile system.
GWS 35 is being retrofitted to all 13 RN Type 23 frigates to replace the GWS 26 Mod 1 VL Seawolf (VLSW) point-defence missile system as part of a frigate capability sustainment programme.
Developed and manufactured by MBDA under the umbrella of the company’s Portfolio Management Agreement with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Sea Ceptor system is founded on MBDA's Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) munition. CAMM employs active radar homing, supported by mid-course guidance updates, to deliver an all-weather engagement capability against targets out to a range of 25 km.
The incorporation of an active radar seeker and datalink on the missile means CAMM does not require a dedicated fire-control radar. Instead, by exploiting the track-while-scan functionality offered by the Radar Type 997 E/F-band radar for 3D target indication and intercept point prediction, CAMM missiles can ‘launch on search’ to prosecute multiple simultaneous air threats.
Another key feature of the CAMM munition is the use of a ‘soft’ vertical launch system. The missile is ejected from its canister by a piston driven by an explosive gas charge incorporated within the canister; at a height of 80–100 ft aft-mounted gas thrusters or ‘jetavators’ effect a turnover manoeuvre before the main motor fires.
According to MBDA, soft launch serves to improve safety and simplify ship fitting because there is no efflux management requirement. Furthermore, CAMM time-of-flight and kinematic performance benefit from having all of the rocket motor’s energy expended efficiently in the direction of intended travel. The more ‘direct’ turnover resulting from soft vertical launch also yields an improved minimum intercept range.
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