HMS Duncan celebrates fourth birthday with missile success

With a deafening roar and searing flash of fire, the sixth of Britain’s Type 45 destroyers announced her readiness to defend the nation as she fired her main weapon for the first time.

Like her five sisters before her, HMS Duncan successfully downed a target with her Sea Viper missile – the perfect fourth birthday present for the Portsmouth-based warship.

Seconds after erupting from its silo, the 450kg Aster 30 missile accelerated to four times the speed of sound over the Atlantic as it manoeuvred at G-forces which no human being could withstand to intercept the small unmanned target.

The destroyer had hoped to launch Sea Viper on the fourth anniversary of her launch – October 11, also the anniversary of the day the ship’s namesake Admiral Adam Duncan routed the Dutch Fleet at Camperdown in 1797 – but weather conditions off the Outer Hebrides scuppered the firing.

It was a real team effort with Duncan’s operators and technicians doing a sterling job to get this missile away so quickly after our arrival here off the Hebrides.

Commander Rich Atkinson

At 3pm on Sunday October 12, however, conditions were perfect – and the sight of Sea Viper erupting from the silo was jaw-dropping for those watching on HMS Duncan’s bridge.

“The speed of the missile as it manoeuvred to strike the target was staggering,” said Lieutenant Jacqui Orr who was navigating the ship at the time of the Sea Viper firing.

“We had practised all the procedures and I’ve seen the pictures before, but there’s still quite buzz when you stand there on the bridge and can actually see our defence systems do their job so well.”

The Sea Viper success is the final weapons milestone for HMS Duncan – she has now tested every weapon aboard and has already completed her basic pre-deployment training.

“We are the sixth Type 45 to prove the potency of the Sea Viper system,” said Commander Rich Atkinson, HMS Duncan’s Commanding Officer.

“It was a real team effort with Duncan’s operators and technicians doing a sterling job to get this missile away so quickly after our arrival here off the Hebrides.

“And of course we had assistance from French and British industry experts from MBDA, BAE and QinetiQ to operate safely on the weapon ranges and gather the data required to further improve the missiles.

“I can now take my ship on operational deployments knowing that, if need be, we will be able to defend ourselves, our allies or other vessels against the most advanced of adversaries.”

HMS Duncan entered service in December 2013 and has had an extremely busy 2014 with a diplomatic visit to Oslo, a successful period of pre-deployment training off Plymouth, and acting as the principal military guardship for the recent NATO Summit in Cardiff where she hosted not only a working dinner for 28 NATO Defence Ministers but also HRH The Prince of Wales and First Minister for Wales.

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 in a silo on the forecastle.

Depending on the missile used – the shorter range Aster 15 and longer range Aster 30 – the system can deal with aerial threats up to 75 miles away, protecting not just the ship herself but a task group, as HMS Defender has been doing in the Gulf with the USS George H W Bush.