A NEW Royal Navy missile system has been tested in Cardigan Bay at the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Aberporth range.

The Martlet missile was launched from a Wildcat helicopter, which is part of the Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron

The firings – which were conducted as part of the UK’s Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) programme – were designed to test the helicopter crews’ ability to protect the UK’s aircraft carriers with the new system.

Weighing 13kg and with a range of up to 9km, the laser-guided Martlet takes approximately 0.3s from launch to reach a speed of one and a half times the speed of sound.

The trials mark an important milestone in the testing of the new system which will arm the Wildcat helicopters that deploy as part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden operational deployment next year.

Commander Matt Boulind, 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.

“The Royal Navy and Army introduced Wildcat helicopters into service five years ago and the firing of the Martlet this week is a very significant milestone and represents a huge success for the joint industry and MoD team.

“This firing underpins future Royal Navy offensive capability and the defence of the surface fleet.”

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

Captain Mark Langrill, Wildcat delivery team leader, said: “These firings mark a vital step forward in the integration of the uniquely flexible Martlet missile into what is already an outstanding helicopter to provide the Royal Navy with a world-class capability.”

The preparation for the firing was conducted in line with current government social distancing rules due to the coronavirus, adding an unexpected hurdle for the teams involved to overcome.

Martlet, also known as the Lightweight Multirole Missile, has already been successfully launched off frigate HMS Sutherland so the latest firing was to test it in its primary role.

Philip McBride, general manager of Integrated Airspace-protection Systems at Thales UK, said: “Martlet will ensure the Wildcat has the best-in-class offensive capability to protect the carrier strike group.”

“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.”