in Defence / Security

Royal Navy’s Sea Viper to take on ballistic threats

Posted 22 January 2024

MBDA has received three contracts worth around £400 million to boost and sustain the Sea Viper principal area air defence system of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers.

Image courtesy DE&S

Two contracts, called Sea Viper Evolution, will enable the Type 45 Destroyers to defend the Carrier Strike Group against anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs). Meanwhile, another contract will provide extended and enhanced in-service support (ISS) contract for Sea Viper for a further five years. MBDA is the prime contractor and design authority for the Sea Viper weapon system, including the sensor (radar), the command and control system and the missile.

Worth £405 million, the contracts will make Sea Viper – recently used to shoot down multiple hostile drones in the Red Sea – the most capable naval air defence system ever developed for the Royal Navy, investing in vital capability used in recent weeks to protect one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes from multiple drone attacks. 


Image courtesy MBDA

The contracts will sustaining 350 UK jobs, including highly skilled technology roles in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol & Bolton. The work will include employees from MBDA across the UK, France and Italy working alongside colleagues from BAE Systems.  

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As the situation in the Middle East worsens, it is vital that we adapt to keep the UK, our allies and partners safe. Sea Viper has been at the forefront of this, being the Navy’s weapon of choice in the first shooting down of an aerial threat in more than 30 years.

“Our strong and enduring relationship with British industry has ensured we can deploy the latest technological capabilities wherever they are required while supporting hundreds of jobs across the country and bolstering UK prosperity.”

Rear Admiral Anthony Rimington, Director Force Generation said: “A cutting-edge weapon system, Sea Viper continues to provide the Royal Navy with impressive lethality. Sea Viper Evolution further enhances this capability against the more complex and evolving threats and strengthens our cooperation and interoperability with key partners.”

Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, Director General Ships at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK MoD, said: “In a rapidly changing defence environment, I’m proud to see our teams work collaboratively with industry colleagues to support highly-skilled jobs and ensure those operating the UK Type 45 fleet have the edge over their adversaries now and in the future.”

Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, said: “These contracts will make Sea Viper the most capable naval air defence system ever developed for the Royal Navy in our 60 year history as the Navy’s primary air defence system supplier. 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.”

The main element of Sea Viper Evolution will see the Royal Navy’s existing Aster 30 missiles receive upgraded Block 1 warheads and new guidance and seeker software to deal with new anti-ship ballistic missile threats, whilst retaining its anti-air warfare capability. The Type 45’s Sampson multi-function radar, and combat management system will also be upgraded. An integrated team from MBDA across the UK, France and Italy is conducting the work together with BAE Systems Maritime Services.

Scott Jamieson, Managing Director, BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business, said: “Our Radar business is excited to be working with MBDA on the Sea Viper Evolution upgrade to our SAMPSON Radar on board the UK’s Type 45 Destroyers. This new capability will form a key element of the UK’s Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence programme.”

The second part of Sea Viper Evolution is an assessment phase evaluating adding the new Aster 30 Block 1NT missile to the Type 45 destroyers, as well as further improvements to the radar and the wider weapon system, to provide world leading capabilities against medium range manoeuvring and separating ballistic missiles.

The extended ISS contract will continue to build upon MBDA’s pioneering data driven approach to optimised stockpile availability, ensuring the Royal Navy have weapons ready at time of need.




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