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Royal Navy HMS Defender demonstrates its power with missile firing


In a burst of fire and smoke, Royal Navy warship HMS Defender has tested her world-beating missile system off the coast of Scotland. Blasting from the Type 45 destroyer’s silo, the missile of the Sea Viper system flew four times the speed of sound before obliterating an incoming drone target designed to simulate a hypersonic projectile attack on the ship.


Royal Navy HMS Defender demonstrates its power with missile firing The HMS Defender firing a missile of the Sea Viper system to intercept a supersonic target during the Formidable Shield exercise, off the coasts of Scotland (Picture Source: Royal Navy)


It marks the first time HMS Defender has taken on this particular type of target – one that is significantly more challenging as it flies faster and lower than others before it.

The missile firing took place as part of NATO Exercise Formidable Shield. It proves the Portsmouth-based ship’s ability to defend herself and other ships around her from attack.

The ship’s Senior Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Commander Daniel Lee, said: “Being a part of our first firing against a fast-moving, low-level target has been a really rewarding experience." He then added that "Proving the effectiveness of the Sea Viper system against a more challenging target reassures us in the ability of HMS Defender to deliver on operations as an air defence destroyer.”

Just two and a half seconds after erupting from HMS Defender’s silo, the missile accelerates to more than four times the speed of sound – otherwise known as Mach 4. High over the seas, it then manoeuvres at G-forces which no human being could withstand, to close in and destroy the target.

Sea Viper is the combination of the Sampson radar system – the distinctive spinning spiked ball on top of a Type 45 destroyer’s main mast – and the Aster missile system which sits in a silo on the ship’s forecastle. The system tracks aircraft and other objects across thousands of cubic miles of airspace, identifies threats, and destroys them when necessary.