UK Royal Navy tests new ‘anti-boat swarm’ missile in Pacific Ocean

The Royal Navy has tested new missiles which are designed to help protect aircraft carriers from attacks by small boats.

Wildcat helicopters fired the lightweight Martlet projectiles during an operation in the Pacific region, as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group headed by carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The group was recently in the Bay of Bengal to take part in a “wide range of cultural demonstrations and trade and investment initiatives”.

It was also set to take part in “the most demanding exercises ever between the UK and India”.

The missiles were fired by a helicopter from destroyer HMS Defender.

They used a large, red, inflatable target floating on the surface of the water – known in the navy as the “big red tomato”.

According to the Navy, the missiles detached from the aircraft in 0.3 seconds and accelerated to one and a half times the speed of sound – roughly 1,151mph.

They are designed to “protect the UK’s new aircraft carriers from attacks by swarms of small boats”.

Captain James Blackmore, the Carrier Strike Group’s air wing commander, said: “Martlet is a new air to surface lightweight multi-role missile recently introduced into service for the Wildcat helicopter and provides an offensive and defensive capability against small boats and maritime targets that may pose a threat to the carrier strike group.

“The Wildcat is a phenomenally versatile aircraft and the inclusion of up to 20 missiles on each of the four embarked aircraft adds yet another potent capability to the Air Wing and the Carrier Strike Group.

“This first firing during an operational deployment not only gives confidence in the end to end weapon kill chain but also offers an overt demonstration of one of the many strike capabilities provided by the Air Wing from within the task group.”