Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates were given a major anti-air capability upgrade with the Sea Ceptor missile which was recently put on display to soldiers in charge of shooting down enemy aircraft.
The HMS Westminster is in the closing stages of a major overhaul in Portsmouth Naval Base which has seen her become one of the first ships in the Fleet to receive Sea Ceptor, the new short-range shield against air attack.
The weapon and its supporting radar system will gradually replace the ageing Seawolf missiles fitted across the Type 23 frigate flotilla.
In its place, the vertically-launched supersonic Sea Ceptor which is slightly heavier than its predecessor and has a much greater range: more than 25km (15 miles), two and a half times the distance of Seawolf.
Westminster is the first ship to receive the Navy’s new shield against air attack system which is also being installed on sister ships Argyll and Montrose during their revamps in Devonport.
Rapier is on the verge of retirement, in favour of a ground-based version of Sea Ceptor (short for interceptor).
The large trackers which guided the old system have been removed and replaced with its successor’s smaller, more powerful sensors.
And the silo has been adapted to accommodate the new supersonic missiles, heavier, over one meter longer and with a range of more than 25km (15 miles), more than twice that of Seawolf.
In addition, engineers have installed the Artisan radar which is rapidly becoming prevalent on the Type 23s – it can track more than 800 objects simultaneously as close as 200 meters and as far away as 200,000 (200km, 125 miles, or from Portsmouth to Calais as the crow flies).
The gunners of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Thorney Island – just along the coast from Portsmouth – currently use the veteran Rapier missile to provide their infantry and armoured comrades with cover on the battlefield.
Officers and senior non-commissioned officers from 16 Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel James Mardlin, made the short trip to Portsmouth to hear both from the ship’s company and from the new missile’s developers MBDA about progress with the system to date and what the future might hold in store for Ceptor.
“We are excited about being able to work together over the next few years,” said Lieutenant Commander Chris L’Amie, Westminster’s Senior Naval Officer.
“The introduction of Ceptor is a real opportunity for both us and 16 Regiment to learn from each other. We will continue to foster a strong working relationship with our closest military neighbours.”
His ship will return to the Fleet next year with a new look and as the Royal Navy’s premier submarine hunter.