With Sea Skua now retired, Royal Navy helicopters will have no anti-ship missiles until the Sea Venom and Martlet missiles enter service in 2020.
With Lynx retiring from service at the end of March, Sea Skua is also ending its service as its not compatible with the Lynx’s successor, Wildcat.
Wildcat will receive the heavy anti-ship missile Sea Venom and the smaller Martlet to be used against small boats.
Martlet, formerly FASGW (Light), was due to enter service around 2015 on the Fleet Air Arm’s new Lynx Wildcat maritime helicopters, it still hasn’t. However the Ministry of Defence has placed an initial order for 1,000 missiles.
Sea Venom, formerly FASGW (Heavy), is a bigger anti-ship missile designed for larger targets.
In 2014, the Royal Navy awarded Thales Group a £48 million contract to deliver Martlet and later that year a contract was awarded to MBDA for the Sea Venom missile for use against vessels and land targets, replacing the Sea Skua.
Both missiles are to be integrated by Leonardo (then AugustaWestland) in a single £90m programme by 2018, with initial operating capability for both planned for October 2020.
Wildcat is, according to the manufacturer, able to operate up to 20 Martlet missiles or 4 Sea Venom missiles to disable or destroy vessels up to 1000 tonnes.
As for Merlin, the helicopter has two hardpoints to carry four Sting Ray torpedoes or depth charges. Some customers of the aircraft have chosen to deploy anti-ship missiles. Indeed in 2011, the Royal Navy was considering equipping their Merlin fleet with an anti-surface missile. This was reportedly dropped due to cost.