UK Wildcat HMA Mk2 helicopter fires Martlet lightweight missile to destroy target

According to information published by the Royal Navy on October 22, 2021, during operations in the Pacific Ocean with the UK Carrier Strike Group, HMS Defender’s Wildcat helicopter of 815 Naval Air Squadron fired the Martlet lightweight missile at an inflatable target in the sea – known in the navy as the big red tomato.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Wildcat HMA Mk2 helicopter firing Martlet lightweight missile (Picture source: Royal Navy)

It is the first time this type of missile has been launched on frontline operations by the Royal Navy after rigorous testing at ranges off the UK coast by the Yeovilton-based Wildcat Maritime Force last year.

In 0.3 seconds, the missile detached from the Wildcat HMA Mk2 helicopter, accelerating to one and a half times the speed of sound towards its target.

The purpose of the missile system is to add another layer of protection around the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, with the Wildcats able to carry up to 20 of the laser-sensor missiles that can be used against stationary and moving targets.

HMS Defender is currently deployed with the UK Carrier Strike’s Group on its maiden global operational deployment.

And the Martlet missile, available for all Wildcats deployed on the task group, is part of the ring of protective steel around carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond also embark Wildcats along with Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond.

The Martlet is a lightweight air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile developed by Thales Air Defense for the United Kingdom. The British MoD placed an initial order for 1,000 missiles and deliveries due to start in 2013. It can be carried on the new Lynx Wildcat helicopters of the Royal Navy for use against small surface vessels. It has a weight of 13kg, travels at Mach 1.5, has a range exceeding 6 km, and has an immediate launch capability.

HMS Defender is the fifth of Type 45 or Daring-class air-defence destroyers built for the Royal Navy. She is the eighth ship to bear the name. Construction of Defender began in 2006, and she was launched in 2009. The ship completed its first sea trials in October and November 2011 and was commissioned during March 2013.