New Wildcat missile bang on target again

ABOUT to strike its target at just under the speed of sound is the Navy’s new anti-ship missile, Sea Venom.

The Anglo-French weapon – which replaces the retired Sea Skua as the punch of Wildcat helicopters of 815 and 825 Naval Air Squadrons – successfully struck a target container on a trials ship in the Mediterranean.

It’s the latest ‘hit’ for Sea Venom which has been launched several times over the past three years off the Île du Levant, which is part French military missile range… and part naturist colony.

The latest firing – from a Dauphin helicopter – saw Sea Venom dropped at close to its minimum release altitude, then skim the Mediterranean on its way to its target.

As the missile neared its objective, the aircrew used infra-red imagery – fed through a live datalink – to tweak the location of the ‘bullseye’ for maximum effect. Sea Venom then manoeuvred at high subsonic speed and struck its objective.

Previous tests of the missile – known by the French as the Anti-Navire Léger – have focused on its ability to lock on to its target either while in flight or while still on its pylon aboard the trials helicopter.

It is one of two missile systems being acquired for the Navy for Wildcat. Fitted with a 30kg (66lb) warhead, it’s intended to knock out patrol craft and seriously damage larger vessels, while the smaller Martlet is intended for use against lighter targets, such as fast inshore attack craft.