Navy Trials New Missile To Protect HMS Queen Elizabeth

Wildcat helicopter crews tested the latest weapons system before joining the aircraft carrier on deployment in 2021.

A new weapons system has been tested by Royal Navy helicopter crews off the coast of Wales.

Wildcat aircraft fired the Martlet missile in the latest trial before trusting the technology to protect aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Yeovilton-based Wildcat Maritime Force will accompany the warship on her first operational deployment next year.

In 0.3 seconds, the missile detached from the helicopter, accelerating to one-and-a-half times the speed of sound across range.

The Martlet, also known as the Lightweight Multirole Missile, had already seen successful trials off frigate HMS Sutherland.

The purpose of the latest test was to observe the weapon in its primary role - attached to the Wildcat HMA Mk2.

Wildcat helicopters can carry 20 of the new missiles (Picture: Royal Navy).

Commander Matt Boulind Royal Navy, the Wildcat Maritime Force Commander, said:

“This test firing shows the Wildcat helicopter will be ready to help defend our Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and their strike groups for years to come."

He went on to describe the milestone firing as a "huge success" for UK defence, which introduced Wildcat helicopters to the Army and Royal Navy five years ago.

Manufactured by aerospace firm Thales, the laser-sensor missile can be used against stationary and moving targets.

The Royal Navy's new generation of aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, cost around £3 billion each.

To protect the vessels, carrier strike groups involve escort ships and aircraft to provide specialist air defence, anti-submarine and minehunting capability, and fuel replenishment.

Ahead of the 2021 deployment, Philip McBride, general manager of Integrated Airspace-protection Systems as Thales UK, said:

"With each helicopter capable of carrying up to 20 missiles, the Wildcats deployed will be a significant deterrent to anyone wishing to interfere with UK interests.”

The Wildcat Maritime Force will support HMS Queen Elizabeth as crews enforce no-fly zones, deploy Royal Marine Commandos, deliver humanitarian aid and build international partnerships with our allies.

Cover image: The Wildcat helicopter firing the Martlet missile (Picture; Royal Navy).