MBDA is to develop a new missile to protect some of the UK Royal Navy's surface ships from attack by combat aircraft and supersonic anti-ship missiles, with the new interceptor to also have potential application for ground-based air defence tasks.
Announced on 30 January and worth £483 million ($758 million) over the next five years, the Sea Ceptor programme is "highly significant in sustaining and developing the UK's skill in building complex weapons", said minister for defence equipment and support Peter Luff.
To build on work already performed for the UK under an MBDA-led common anti-air modular missile assessment, the Sea Ceptor will be fired against incoming threats at a speed of Mach 3. It will replace MBDA vertical launch Seawolf weapons in defending the RN's Type 23 frigates from around 2016, and also protect its next-generation Type 26 vessels after 2020.
Thales UK will develop the missile’s laser proximity fuze under an £11 million subcontract from MBDA, and said its award also "includes options for various production quantities".
MBDA said the same interceptor could also be a candidate to replace Rapier mobile air defence missiles currently employed by British Army and Royal Air Force air defence units.
To find out more about Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm procurement activities, read our interview with First Sea Lord Adm Sir Mark Stanhope