An Italian navy AgustaWestland EH101 helicopter has made the first test firing of a Marte Mk2/S anti-ship missile at Sardinia's Salto di Quirra test range. Conducted by AgustaWestland, MBDA Italia and navy test pilots and operators, the demonstration displayed the weapon system's full operating effectiveness, says Giuliano Cottini, MBDA Italia's anti-surface warfare projects director.

The missile performed a sea-skimming flight of 20km (10.8nm) via a waypoint before intercepting its target, which it acquired from a distance of 5km. The test missile, which was supplied in a final service configuration, minus its conventional warhead, flew over its target at a height of 16.4ft (5m).

MBDA Italia received a November 2000 contract to develop and integrate the Marte Mk2/S with the navy's EH101s and expects to complete its qualification campaign early next year. This will comprise another firing under the company's responsibility and a further four to be undertaken by the customer, says Cottini. A follow-on contract awarded last year covers the production of 39 missiles for delivery from 2007, while the company has also been contracted to integrate the weapon with NH Industries' NH90 by early next year.

An enhanced version of the Marte Mk2, which entered Italian navy service in the 1980s, the fire-and-forget Mk2/S is a high subsonic speed weapon with a maximum range of over 30km and a launch weight of 310kg (680lb), including a 70kg warhead. The design could be adapted for land-attack missions through the integration of a global positioning system receiver, while MBDA Italia is also studying whether to add a datalink and an imaging infrared seeker to provide a man-in-the-loop capability.


Source: Flight International