Eleven Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers are to be fitted with the sea-skimming Naval Strike Missile (NSM), capable of knocking out major enemy warships at ranges of more than 100 miles away.
A Naval Strike Missile (NSM) in flight.
Courtesy Royal Navy
The MoD has ordered the missile system as the interim replacement for the existing Harpoon, which reaches the end of its active life next year. UK defence firms Babcock and BAE Systems will install NSM on the 11 warships, with the first ship due to be operational by the end of next year.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the investment in the new weapon on a visit to Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "We have a long history of defence cooperation with Norway. This new agreement cements our partnership with one of our closest allies, whilst strengthening our Royal Navy with a new surface to surface strike capability."
Norwegian Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram, said: "This is a significant task with an ambitious timeline. Both nations have established a designated team with a strong mandate to ensure the success of this common effort. The Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is supporting the joint team with their expertise and the planned integration on the UK vessels."
Harpoon has been in service for several decades and, despite frequent upgrades and enhancements to keep pace with developments in technology, can no longer meet the demands of mid-21st Century naval warfare.
The Naval Strike Missile will plug the gap between Harpoon and the advent of its permanent successor, the ‘future offensive surface weapon’, which will become the Fleet’s premier long-range, heavy duty anti-ship missile in 2028, carried by the Royal Navy’s next-generation Type 26 frigates, currently under construction on the Clyde.
The Naval Strike Missile is already in service with three navies – the Norwegian, US and Polish – and lined up to be fitted to the warships of half a dozen more.
Travelling at speeds close to Mach 1, the 400kg missile can strike at targets more than 100 miles away, evading detection by skimming over the sea’s surface and eluding enemy defences via evasive manoeuvres.