Firing trials for the new Sea Ceptor air defence system have been successfully completed say the Ministry of Defence.

The completion of the firing trials from Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll means Sea Ceptor can proceed to the next stage of the acceptance into service with the Royal Navy.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“In the face of intensifying global threats, cutting-edge systems like Sea Ceptor will keep the UK safe. These successful trials from HMS Argyll mark a major milestone towards the introduction of this world-class missile system into service for the Royal Navy.

Work to develop and install Sea Ceptor across the Royal Navy is also boosting British industry, supporting 600 jobs in the Bristol, Stevenage and Bolton areas.”

The first firings of Sea Ceptor were conducted from HMS Argyll at the Hebrides range off the coast of Scotland and involved firing the system to assess its performance against a range of scenarios.

Two sets of trials were conducted by Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S) and supported by a number of other organisations, lasting around two weeks each.

During the firings the system was first tested against single aerial targets. This was followed by more demanding tests, including a single target engaged by two missiles and a twin firing (two targets, each engaged by a single missile at the same time) say officials.

Lieutenant Nick Andrews, HMS Westminster’s Anti-Air-Warfare Officer, said:

“HMS Westminster managed to explore the real potential of the system during her training and to say it is a real game changer is an understatement. Unlike its predecessor, the system is capable of defending ships other than Westminster herself. Whether it’s engaging multiple air threats or fast incoming attack craft, Sea Ceptor represents a massive capability upgrade for the Type 23 frigate.”

Richard Smart, Director Weapons, for the MOD’s procurement organisation Defence Equipment and Support, which is based at MoD Abbey Wood in Bristol, said:

“These trials are a significant step in getting the Sea Ceptor weapon system to acceptance and a great example of how important live trials are in helping us to understand a new military capability before using it in operational service. The success of the trials is testimony to the hard work put in by the DE&S project team and the working relationship they have with industry.

The results of the firings are now going through extensive analysis; our assessment so far is positive and shows how Sea Ceptor is capable of protecting both the ship which fired it and other ships in its task group, which could include the UK’s two new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carriers.”


  1. These ministers and their PC speak.

    “Keep the UK safe”

    No dear its there to protect the crew, the ship, and destroy the enemy, including the pilot of an aircraft if necessary.

    Far too blunt and honest for these flowery politicians.

    My rant aside is it on time, to cost, and what the RN wanted?

  2. How many similar systems to Sea Ceptor are there? Soft launch seems to me to be a big benefit and the basic characteristics of the missile (range, warhead, manouverability & seeker), based on web info that I have seen, don’t seem to have been compromised so it seems like a real winner in terms of cost effectiveness and more than good enough for the intended role but would be interested in more informed opinions.

    • Its not as manoeuverable as the Aster 15 which has so called ‘pif-paf’ jets which give it a higher rate of g turn. The range is quoted as 25km ( a tad shorter than Aster 15) but I suspect this is conservative and depends on the altitude of the target. It doesn’t need a powerful radar to illuminate the target. At launch it is directed by target coordinates from the ships radar and when it gets close to the target it can use its own active seeker. I’m guessing that having 2 sources of target data would make it accurate and harder to jam.
      And having its own seeker means the number of missiles you can fire is less limited by the ability of the ships radar to direct multiple missiles so a cheaper radar can be used. And it should be good as a defence against Exocet ‘swarms’ which might otherwise overwhelm a system that works by reflecting the ships radar back to a missile that has a receiver only. I read somewhere they are going to enhance Asraam ( the parent missile for camm) along similar lines – give it mid course correction capability from the Typhoon radar.

      • Thanks Paul. I was thinking specifically are there other similar missiles with the benefits of soft launch and active terminal guidance (no ship borne illuminator needed)? Based solely on capability Aster 15 is the superior missile I think since it has the latter Sea Ceptor benefit and also, as you mention, can do higher g manoeuvres but it is a lot bigger, heavier and is hot launch so I assume Sea Ceptor gets a high percentage of the capability for significantly reduced cost. What I was wondering about is does Sea Ceptor pretty much have that particular market segment to itself right now in terms of relatively more affordable fairly compact cold launch missile systems that at least are in roughly the same ballpark in terms of capability vs their hot-launch peers?

        • I have a vague memory of reading that the soviets have cold launched missiles but can’t find a reference. So far as I know I think that in the west Sea Ceptor has defined a unique market niche. Perfomance 90% of Aster 15 at a fraction of the cost. No need for an expensive and heavy illuminator radar. No need for expensive and intrusive deck penstrating VLS. Very cost effective and significant capability upgrade for lots of Meko era frigates with Sea Sparrow and Mica.

          • Thanks again Paul.

            “Perfomance 90% of Aster 15 at a fraction of the cost”

            Yep. I think that’s the perfect summary (although people are always going to quibble about the percentage but not me). Sea Ceptor has already proved useful for the T26 design to add 48 local area defence missiles without needing to add more expensive Mk41 (or some Sylver 50) but I think the T31 is where it will really come into its own and perhaps, for the limited budget that will be available for those ships, allow them to have a level of AAW capability that otherwise wouldn’t be affordable within the budget (and possibly not physically possible due to volume and weight constraints) where it not for Sea Ceptor.

            I hope we can also do more with soft launch going forward. I would love to see the models of soft launch Spear 3 that MBDA have already exhibited at shows becoming a real weapon, that could add an interesting long range precision strike capability to T31 in support of land-based operations and the possibility of an ER version of Sea Ceptor is still kicking around (as long as the Italians stay the course – they are driving the ER requirement right now aren’t they?).

            All good 🙂

        • Replying to your CAMM-ER question. Interesting that the Italians picked up on Camm. Is the idea that CAMM-ER will be to Camm what Aster 30 is to Aster 15?
          Will Camm-ER be made in Italy? Has MBDA missed a trick for UK jobs? I think it needs its own larger soft launch tube; the CAMM launcher is too small. So the ship designer might have to choose between Camm and Camm-ER . Lots of unknowns. Be interesting to see how it plays out, especially for the Type 31.

  3. I hope undisclosed budgets are financing research into future upgrades to tackle the pending hypersonic threat. Seaceptor is good now, it needs to be good and not just competitive in 15 years.

    • i think they will have trouble coming up with effective countermeasure to a sea skimming hypersonic missile – simply by the time its detected its probably already to late

      personally i would work on designing frigate/ destroyers that can run submerged – not a true submarine – just periscope depth etc – just enough to neuter hypersonic threats and give a stealth capability to the fleet (obviously again not to extent of a real submarine but would help)

      • Nice thinking, but if ever tried I think a solution with the missile guidance would be found very easily. I just hope the current & upcoming crop of SAM/AASMs are found to be more reliable in action than our SAMs in the Falklands war did. The Agies only fired a few & only 1 or 2 at a time, subsonic. Swarms of hypersonic are the stuff of nightmares.

        The UK(Territory, shipping & assets) can only be defended by warships with SAMs if we have enough warships equipped with the gear to do so effectively with margins for the inevitable losses in a conflict.

      • One advantage that there might be re reaction time is letting weapons firing be fully automated. If the only thing in the battle space capable of hypersonic travel is a sea-skimming missile then automated systems that identify a threat to be auto-engaged (i.e. no human in the firing loop except probably post-launch purely to abort a misfire) could quite reliably do so simply on the basis of hypersonic speed and a velocity vector towards friendly assets and not known to be associated with any outbound friendly missile (if we also have hypersonic missiles at some point).

        The other advantage against a hypersonic missile is that at hypersonic speeds they will not be so manouverable making the incoming course more predictable although maybe they will deliberately start shedding forward momentum at the end to allow more aggressive terminal manoeuvres.

      • A hypersonic missile is essentially a straight line bullet.
        Its going to travel in a straight line for the majority of the flight but its going to need to be told where the target is ( Mid Course Guidance ) by an external source be that an aircraft, second surface/subsurface unit or a ROSSAT.
        Radar Ocean Surveillance Sats we will leave to the Yanks to get rid of they are well out of the UKs capability to remove.
        The other units can be dealt with. Kill the launcher before its in range using aircraft from a carrier or by engaging with a sub.
        Kill the mid course guidance units to remove the guidance updates.
        Use soft kill such as chaff, floats and IR decoys to distract and seduce the missile away from its intended target.
        Make sure you have a low RCS so that any soft kill you put out is more attractive than you are.
        Maneuver your ship out of the seeker basket. If the seeker cannot see you when it goes active then job done, it wont engage you because it cannot see you.
        Then if all of the above fails you can start putting your own missiles in the air .

    • Fleet Street ‘defence experts’ have complained that seaceptor can only achieve mach 3 compared to projected speeds of mach 5 for future hypersonic asm s, as if that makes them inadequate. The point with a point defence system is that the target is headed straight at you, so your missile only needs to be fast enough to intercept far enough away so that debris does not still cause major damage. The important factor in the design is the fusing, so that it explodes early enough to bring down the target, and on this I have no useful inside information.

      • That’s partially correct the biggest issue to countering a hypersonic missile is placing the anti-missile in the right place at the right time. Therefore, detection is priority followed by threat processing and the missiles acceleration off the rail. The detonation can either be controlled by internal or telemetry fusing.
        We carried out a theoretical debate over how to counter a hypersonic missile on a different post. It really is a question of timing. But the earliest detection of the threat is paramount. The Artisan, Sampson and S1850M have all proven detection against high speed threats and I’m pretty sure hypersonic missile s have been part of the design requirements. Therefore I’d say if RN Frigate/Destroyer is attacked by such a missile believe it has better than fair chance of defeating it even if soft countermeasures fail!

  4. How does this missile cope against the awesome threat posed by cricket balls that they boasted the type 45 could defend us from.

  5. Sea Ceptor is a very elegant design. Local area capability for point defence price. The missles can be targetted using Terma Scanter radar and it has anti surface FAC capability thrown in. Definitely should be containerised for the Rivers and RFAs.

        • But let’s wait till we’ve got 48 F35’s first. No-one outside of Lockheed Martin seems to know how much they’ll end up costing. A cynic might suggest it definitely won’t be less than expected.

          • I am assuming this is because the order hasn’t yet been actually placed and so the negotiation on the price hasn’t concluded or potentially started. I am just hoping we don’t lose our construction slots over this.

        • An assumption I know, but if QE has an Aster or Sea Ceptor AW ship on all points I am more worried about the submarine threat. P-8 is not yet in service, I don’t think 7 Astutes is enough and I don’t think 8 Type 26 is enough.

          • Possible for the solid support ships. Tankers however have a big cloud of explosive gas around them which is vented from the cargo. Popping a missile through it might not go so well.

        • Nope it’s not easy to fit.
          As I have said many times before it’s a long and arduous process to put any weapon system on a ship.
          Despite the blurb it is a lot more involved than just bolting it on.

  6. from what I read it has over twice the range of the missile it is replacing, which is a serious game changer in escort capability of the navy.

    • I am assuming that with the extra range the t23 can now provide a mini area defence capability and no longer pretty much limited to solely point defence.

  7. Sea Ceptor provides a capable yet cost effective solution to the RN requirements and already 5 export orders have been secured.

    There is a lesson to be learned there.

    Now let’s get Land Ceptor up and running to replace the obsolete Rapier and with luck that to will win export orders. Rapier failed comprehensively in the Falklands 82 (for a variety of reasons) and even the updated Rapier FSC had a poor and inadequate performance.

    I don’t know how technically measures against its main rivals aster15 and essm, but am confident they have broadly similar performance characteristics. The goal of producing the very best most technically brilliant solutions is not always the right one if the end result is that’s it’s so expensive we cannot afford to procure it in the quantities required and fail to win export orders that will pay for the development of next generation weapons.

  8. Going back to the excellent article identified by Oscar Zulu on the frigates thread.

    The Aussies seem to be on to something with their CEAFAR radar and Sea Ceptor combo. I am in no way an expert, but it looks as if it is a game changer.

    For me Sea Ceptor shows what can be done with some imagination and brains and I think Britain should be at the forefront of missile design and production and it should be one of our strategic industrial capabilities.

    The NSM/JSM is a great example of a relatively small country getting things right and gaining an export market, Sea Ceptor is another example.

    • Just to correct the record the RAN’s ANZAC class frigates team the CEAFAR radar with Raytheon’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) not Sea Ceptor. ESSM’s are quad packed giving the ANZAC’s a war load out of 32 missiles.

      The ESSM has roughly double the range (50+km) of the baseline Sea Ceptor (25+km)or approximately the same as the Sea Ceptor ER (45+km). The ESSM is a Mach 4+ missile versus Sea Ceptor’s Mach 3.

      If Sea Ceptor’s RF seeker gives it an advantage currently over ESSM, it is likely to be short lived with the Block II ESSM also fitted with an active radar homing receiver and fielded by the USN from 2020.

  9. Agree with some of the comments above Sea Ceptor is the answer to point defence against current sea skimming supersonic or cruise missiles.
    against hypersonic weapons we will need rail guns or direct energy weapons.
    missile technology is unlikely to become advanced enough to counter hypersonic anti-ship missiles effectively. Fortunately Russia, China, Iran, North Korea have not yet developed a truly effective hypersonic weapon. Terminal guidance becomes difficult against an evading target when the incoming missile is travelling at mach 4+

  10. The real advantage of sea ceptor over the old sea wolf is missile size. We could qud pack these into each vl cell if money was more available so instead of 32 missiles a type 23 frigate could carry 128 sea ceptors. Lets hope the coming type 26 and 31s do this instead shall we?

  11. Type 26 should have 72 cells with 24 being Strike, so you could have 24 TLAM(NSM/JSM), 36 Aster and 48 Sea Ceptor which then makes these ships pretty awesome.

    If we can get the T45’s their Mk41 VLS sets as well then that really will be something.

    As for T31 I dont see any reason for it to have anything other than some 8 Mk41 strike (or AS70 if need be) and 32 Sea Ceptors quad packed into a further 8 tubes. This would be pretty awesome and well within the cost envelope I think.

    Horses for courses and I think T31 with 16 tubes is a good compromise.

  12. Sea Ceptor is a Sea Wolf replacement. Dont compare it with ASTER …its not an ASTER replacement.
    A plus for the T23 is that the 2 trackers fwd and aft are now redundant and and have been removed so less top weight and less maintenance… ( and you now have a briefing room/ gym…)
    Its got better range than Seawolf.
    Its not limited by trackers needing to illuminate a target and then provide LOS guidance to move the missile onto the target.
    Its cold launched which allows for greater missile range …you are not wasting propellant getting the thing out of the launcher and into the air
    Like Sea Wolf it should be capable of AUTO/AUTO engagements. That is operator out of the loop unless you wish to abort the engagement. In a real shooting war let the radars and computers do the engagements. They are quicker and better at it than having a man in the loop.
    Now if it can shoot down a 4.5 inch shell and drop a real exocet its a valid sea wolf replacement with the added bonus of local area defence. That will make the Goalkeeping task a whole lot easier when escorting a HVU.

    • Am I correct in reading your first sentence as saying that Sea Ceptor trails Aster in capability by more than some (me and possibly others) thought hence Paul and I were getting a little too carried away further up in this comments section in talking about Sea Ceptor as 90% of Aster capability at a much more affordable price?

      I suppose there is no defying the laws of physics so does Aster being so much bigger and heavier mean it carries more onboard fuel and so, as well as being able to do sharper turns, can also do more of them than Sea Ceptor could at a similar altitude and range intercept because it carries more energy that it can afford to shed on course changes?


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