The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the “world-leading” Sea Ceptor missile system that will protect the Royal Navy’s new QEII-class aircraft carriers has officially entered service. It will be carried initially by Navy Type 23 frigates that will escort the carriers and later by the Royal Navy's forthcoming eight Type 26 combat warships. Three Type 23s have been fitted and have carried out successful firings. The MoD said that it has cost “around £850 million” (more than $1.1 billion) to develop and manufacture the system.
The Sea Ceptor system includes detection radars and the necessary command and control, but the key element is a compact, point defense missile made by MBDA that is designed to protect warships from proliferating airborne threats, notably supersonic sea-skimming missiles. But Royal Navy officers have said that it can also intercept fast-attack surface vessels.
MBDA still refers to this compact interceptor as the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM), since it can be housed by a variety of launchers, including land-based ones. It is ejected from these by a gas-generated piston before its rocket motor ignites. In Royal Navy service, the missile is launched from one of the Type 23’s eight-cell Mk41 Vertical Launch System canisters.
Last month, MBDA announced that the CAMM had been qualified for launch from a smaller, three-cell version of this launcher. Up to four CAMMs can be stored and fired from a single cell. The missile can therefore be integrated with various ships and their radar/C2I systems. Five other navies have bought the CAMM, and the British Army will replace its Rapier SAMs with CAMMs, in a system named Land Ceptor.
The MoD said that the Sea Ceptor system had been tested at the Hebrides range off the coast of Scotland against a range of complex scenarios, including engaging multiple targets at once. Sea Ceptor is replacing the decades-old Seawolf missile system.