Options are currently being considered for arming the Type 26 Frigate with land attack missiles.
Nicholas Soames, Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex, asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps he is taking to introduce Tomahawk Land Attack Missile capability to the surface fleet.”
Stuart Andrew, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, responded:
“Type 26 Frigates are being equipped with the Mk41 Strike Length Vertical Launch System which would be compatible with Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. A range of candidate solutions are currently being considered in the Concept Phase to fulfil this capability requirement, but in the meantime United Kingdom maritime land attack capability remains ably provided by submarines.”
The Type 26, or City class, will be equipped with the Type 997 Artisan 3D search radar and Sea Ceptor air-defence missiles launched via a 48 cell vertical launching system positioned. The Sea Ceptor silo’s will be positioned on the bow and at the funnel of the vessel.
An additional 24-cell Mark 41 “strike-length VLS” is positioned forward of the bridge capable of firing missiles such as the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile or indeed a future anti-ship/cruise missile.
No decisions have been taken regarding what the long range cruise missile will be, it could very well be Tomahawk or another system. It’s worth noting however that every press event I’ve been to, has mentioned Tomahawk as being the preferred candidate should money be made available.
Last year, Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart signed an agreement to explore future long range weapons for the British and French Navies and Air Forces.
The missile however will not be ready to replace Harpoon until 2030, leaving the Type 26 Frigates without any real means to engage surface warships aside from their helicopters.
The recent military action taken in April against chemical weapons targets in Syria demonstrated the wider range of missile options available to the United States and French Navies for use against land targets, says a report by the Defence Committee.
By contrast, the Royal Navy has only the option of submarine-launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM)—an option that was not used.
According to the report:
“Consideration should be given to extending TLAM capability to the surface fleet, ahead of development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon System, which will not be in service until the 2030s.“
What will go in the MK41?
Currently, we don’t know. No firm commitment has been made for any of the weapon types able to be fired by the MK 41 but with the first vessel not entering sea trials for quite a few years, the time hasn’t yet come to order anything.