As for the British system, the Sea Viper includes the SAMPSON and S1850M 3-D air surveillance radars, the battle management system, the Sylver Vertical Launching System A50, and the Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles.

Considered a counterweight to the US-made Aegis Combat System, the Sea Viper allows the UK to effectively defend its fleet against a variety of airborne threats. The British Ministry of Defense said on January 21 that it would spend 405 million pounds ($514 million) to upgrade the Sea Viper air defense missile system, currently used by the Royal Navy. The missile system – fired on several occasions over the past six weeks by HMS Diamond while protecting Red Sea shipping.

The enhancements cover three contracts with the missile system’s manufacturer, MBDA UK: two to significantly enhance Sea Viper on board Diamond and her five sisters, a third to cover enhanced in-service support and availability of the system for the next five years.

The first phase of the revamp will be to upgrade the Aster 30 missile to allow it to intercept the latest anti-ship ballistic missile threats, and will also see the Sampson multi-function radar, Command and Control system and Combat Management System.

The next stage of what is termed ‘the Sea Viper evolution’ will evaluate the introduction of the new Aster 30 Block 1NT missile, currently under development with France and Italy. It features a new seeker to improve the existing ballistic missile defence capabilities of Type 45 destroyers. 

In service for more than a decade, Sea Viper – the name covers the entire weapons system, including two radars, the command system and the Aster missile which is Viper’s ‘bite’ – can currently track hundreds of potential threats to an individual ship or task group at ranges up to 250 miles, and eliminate them when they close to around 70 miles.

HMS Dauntless, the second of six formidable Type 45 air defence warships being built for the Royal Navy, arrives in her home port of Portsmouth, Hampshire for the first time.Built by BAE Systems, the Type 45 destroyer was launched in January 2007 from its Govan shipyard in Glasgow and since then has been carrying out sea trials in Scottish waters.The Type 45s are the largest and most powerful air defence destroyers ever built for the Royal Navy and all will be based in Portsmouth.

The Sea Viper air defense missile system is a joint program developed by France, Italy and the UK, the system is currently used by all three countries, also known as PAAMS. In the United Kingdom, PAAMS was designated Sea Viper to differentiate it from the Franco-Italian Horizon-class PAAMS system. British destroyers are equipped with SAMPSON multi-function radar instead of EMPAR Multi-Function Radar on French and Italian variants.

PAAMS is designed to track, target and destroy a variety of high-performance air threats, including saturation attacks of very low altitude, supersonic cruise missiles, fighter aircraft, and UAVs. PAAMS can launch eight missiles in under ten seconds with its Sylver Vertical Launching System, and simultaneously guide up to 16 missiles.

As for the British system, the Sea Viper includes the SAMPSON and S1850M 3-D air surveillance radars, the battle management system, the Sylver Vertical Launching System A50, and the Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. Sea Viper can track more than 1,000 targets at ranges of up to 400 km. BAE Systems also claims that its SAMPSON radar has “excellent detection of stealth aircraft and missiles”. Like the later baselines of the US Aegis Combat System, the PAAMS can engage multiple targets simultaneously.

The SAMPSON is a multi-function dual-face active electronically scanned array radar produced by BAE Systems Maritime. Sea Viper uses this information to assess and command target priorities and calculate the optimum launch time for its Aster missiles.

In addition to SAMPSON, the British Navy also added the S1850M long-range radar to the Sea Viper. It is a modified version of the Thales Nederland SMART-L radar. The S1850M is advertised as being capable of fully automatic detection, track initiation, and tracking of up to 1,000 targets at a range of 400 kilometres. It is also claimed to be highly capable of detecting stealth targets, and able to detect and track outer atmosphere objects at short range, enabling it to form part of a Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence system.

The Sylver A50 vertical launch systems carry both MBDA Aster 15 and Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles. The Aster 15 and Aster 30 are a Franco-Italian family of all-weather, vertical launch surface-to-air missiles. The missiles were developed to intercept and destroy the full spectrum of air threats from high-performance combat aircraft, UAVs and helicopters to cruise, anti-radiation and even sea-skimming supersonic anti-ship missiles.

There are two versions of the Aster missile family, the short-medium range version, the Aster 15 with a range of 30 km, and the long range version, the Aster 30, with a range of 120 km. The missile bodies are identical. Their difference in range and intercept speed is because Aster 30 uses a much larger booster. Total weights of the Aster 15 and 30 are 310 kg and 450 kg, respectively.

In the UK, Sea Viper is equipped on Type 45 class destroyers. The Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers are among the most advanced in the fleet and carry out a range of activity, including defence from air attack, counter-piracy operations and providing humanitarian aid. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps this week visited HMS Diamond in the Red Sea, where it recently used Sea Viper missiles to shoot down multiple attack drones.


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