UK: HMS Westminster Conducts Seawolf Missile Tests

HMS Westminster Conducts Seawolf Missile Tests

HMS Westminster completed two successful trial launches of her air defence missile system off the Isle of Wight. The Portsmouth-based frigate has been testing new canisters to hold her Seawolf missiles – tests which proved a hit as the weapon smashed two targets out of the Channel skies.

Some 32 Seawolfs sit in their ‘cocoons’ (or canisters) in the silo on the forecastle of a Type 23 frigate – waiting for the moment an aerial threat is posed to the ship.

In this instance, that threat came from targets on the end of a very long cable towed behind an aircraft.

The ‘capital ship’ fired one telemetry version of the air defence missile – crammed with sensors to take readings – and one with a live warhead (known as a ‘war shot’) at the targets, one of which was skimming just 20ft above the surface of the Channel.

Of the Royal Navy’s trio of missiles defending the Fleet against air attack – Seawolf, Sea Viper (on Type 45 destroyers) and the soon-to-be-retired Sea Dart (on HMS Edinburgh, the last Type 42 destroyer) – Seawolf is the smallest and has the shortest range.

Using forward and aft trackers, Seawolf can follow – and then destroy – a target the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound.

If the system were placed in the middle of London, it could track its target over the M25 and knock it out of the sky over the North Circular – and the whole action would last under 20 seconds.

The weapon system is designed to detonate close enough to a target to cause maximum damage, making it either explode or plunge out of the sky.

But thanks to the upgrade Seawolf has received in recent years – effectively doubling the weapon’s range – it’s become less of a ‘miss-ile’ and more of a ‘hit-ile’, wreaking immediate and total destruction.

Celebrating the success of the double take-down, Westminster’s weapon engineer officer Lt Cdr Mickey Rooney, whose department is responsible for Seawolf (as well as other weapons and sensors aboard) said all aboard enjoyed what was “effectively a £1m seaborne clay pigeon shoot – and the target lost.

 “Both trials were hugely successful in a very crowded sea around the back of the Isle of Wight – we killed the pesky targets stone-cold dead.

“It’s the first time our commanding officer has used this ‘cheap missile system’ – he’s used to the ‘millionaire’s option’ of a Trident from his submarine days.”

With the Seawolf experiments done, Westminster is gearing up for a high-profile visit to London. She’s due to sail up the Thames on March 13 to berth next to WW2 veteran HMS Belfast.

Naval Today Staff, March 11, 2013 Image: Royal Navy