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UK pauses I-SSGW as debate continues on capability need

HMS Montrose fires a Harpoon Block1C anti-ship missile. The Interim Surface-to-Surface Weapon programme to succeed Harpoon, which retires in December 2023, has been paused to review the investment case. (Royal Navy/Crown Copyright)

Testimony to a parliamentary committee by the UK Royal Navy's (RN's) most senior officer has cast renewed doubt on the service's plans to acquire a stopgap anti-ship missile to replace the obsolescent Harpoon.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee on 2 March, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin confirmed that the Interim Surface-to-Surface Weapon (I-SSGW) programme had been paused in order to review the investment case.

With the RN's Harpoon Block 1C missile and associated GWS60 ship system being retired in December 2023, and the planned Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FCASW) not scheduled to enter service until the end of the decade, the I-SSGW programme is intended to procure a limited number of anti-ship missiles and associated ship systems for rotation across five Type 23 frigates. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in March 2019 released a prior information notice stating its desire to acquire a ship-launched over-the-horizon (200 km+) precision anti-ship capability with an additional terrain-following precision maritime land attack capability.

lsrael Aerospace Industries (Sea Serpent), Raytheon (Naval Strike Missile) and Saab (RBS15) have all announced their intention to bid the I-SSGW requirement. However, the release of an invitation to negotiate has been repeatedly deferred amid suggestions that the RN could be re-thinking its plans.

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