‘Formidable’ Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters carry up to 20 missiles

Royal Navy Wildcat seen testing the Martlet missile in the sky

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Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters are able to carry up to 20 missiles at once, a new trial has shown. Month-long trials of Martlet and Sea Venom, the Navy’s two new air-to-surface anti-ship missiles, found that the devices “exceeded expectations”. The Wildcat helicopter was able to operate with the weapons loads in seven different configurations, with the helicopter on some occasions being loaded up to more than six tonnes.

This is the first time the helicopter has been able to carry this much, with a navy source saying the trials highlighted the Navy’s “contribution to allied forces and Nato.”

A Navy source told the Telegraph: “It’s pushing the capability.

“Before, Wildcat was great for anti-sub warfare, landing Special Forces, the delivering of troops.

“Now it has this amazing ability to take missiles over the horizon to engage with the king’s enemy at range.”

The Martlet weapon is intended to take out smaller threats to the Fleet.

It has a 3kg explosive charge and can destroy a target at twice the speed of sound.

Sea Venom is twice the size of the smaller weapon, with more than double the range and is fitted with a 30kg charge.

Speaking about the weapons, the Navy source added: “It’s a formidable amount of missiles.

“It is the first time the Wildcat has been proved in this role to carry this amount of ordnance in support of future tasking and is highlighting the Navy’s contribution to allied forces and Nato.”

A Wildcat helicopter joined aviation training ship RFA Argus for a month in the Atlantic.

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It practised take-off and landing more than 900 times with different conditions and payloads.

Once the data from the trials has been analysed, Wildcats armed with Martlet and Sea Venom will be operated on frigates, destroyers, auxiliaries and Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

In September, Royal Navy helicopters fired new missiles for the first time in an exercise that saw UK and US forces target a warship.

The exercise, named Atlantic Thunder, was the first of its type for the Royal Navy in 18 years.

A decommissioned frigate, USS Boone, was struck by an array of high-powered weaponry, including the Martlet missile.

Commander Ed Moss-Ward, commanding officer of HMS Westminster, said the exercise showed that UK and US naval and air forces can work together to deliver “an end-to-end kill chain” against a ship at long range.

He said: “The integration of high-end weapons, sensors and communications with our Nato allies is key to the collective warfighting capability of the alliance demonstrated by the sinking exercise.

“The firings have supported the development of the Royal Navy’s targeting and weapon capabilities, and afforded the opportunity to conduct realistic training to validate tactics and operating procedures.”

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