UK to upgrade Royal Navy’s Sea Viper air defence system for more complex air threats

In the wake of Royal Navy warships downing Houthi drones in the Red Sea, the service’s Sea Viper air defence programme is to receive a GBP405 million upgrade, the Ministry of Defence reported on 21 January. Sea Viper missiles have been used to shoot down multiple attack drones, as part of the US-led international taskforce Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea.

Enhancements to both warhead and software will make the missile system more lethal to a range of airborne threats. Three contracts have been awarded to MBDA UK to significantly upgrade Sea Viper capability on Type 45 destroyers and to provide in-service support and ensure availability for the next five years. The enhancements are expected to reach full operational capability by late 2032. The Sea Viper evolution programme enhancements aim to deliver ballistic missile defence capability to counter more complex threats, while providing an opportunity for further upgrades and increased capability to be taken forward into future systems.

The initial stage of the contract will upgrade the Royal Navy’s existing Aster 30 missiles to Aster 30 Block 1, which will enable defence against anti-ship ballistic missile threats, and will see modifications to the fleet’s Multi-Function Radar (Sampson), C2 and combat management systems. The subsequent stage of 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 that would even further enhance the ballistic missile defence capabilities of the UK’s Type 45 destroyers. They will also see the UK further enhance the co-operation with France and Italy through MBDA by joining the Aster 30 Block 1 programme, giving the UK the ability to defeat anti-ship ballistic missiles.

For more information:

Navy Missile System used to destroy Red Sea drones to be upgraded – GOV.UK (

(Image: HMS Defender firing the Sea Viper system during Exercise Formidable Shield off Scotland. Credit: MoD Crown copyright)

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