Britain’s Royal Navy currently uses Seawolf missiles as the primary air defense system for its Type 23 frigates. They’re updated versions of a missile that was used during the 1982 Falklands War, but modern threats demand more. Britain also needs to equip its Type 26/27 Global Combat Ship frigate replacements, and could use an option that raises the number of air defense missiles carried by its Type 45 air defense destroyers.
The answer to all of these problems is being developed as one component of Britain’s GBP 4 billion, 10-year “Team Complex Weapons” partnership with MBDA. It’s a quad-packable, intermediate-range air defense missile with its own active radar guidance, which re-uses a number of features and technologies from British fighter jets’ AIM-132 ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missile. Not only will it serve on British ships, but it’s set to field as an Army air defense missile, and may even fly on future British fighters.
The Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM)
A quick terminology note: FLAADS, the Future Low-Altitude Air Defense System, is the British designation for the program as a whole, which is projected to involve FLAADS (M) at sea, and FLAADS (L) on land. CAMM is the missile, which MBDA uses as a general base reference, but they sometimes mention “CAMM-M” and “CAMM-L” specifically. The naval CAMM-M version and its integration with ship systems is marketed globally under the name “Sea Ceptor”.
CAMM: Performance and Positioning
The CAMM missile’s range remains vague. Reports have cited 500 square nautical mile coverage, which amounts to a 12.6 nmi circle. That’s acceptable for a point defense replacement, but MBDA refers to air defense at ranges “greater than 25 km”, as well as effectiveness against threats riding on the water. That would give it more versatility than the Seawolf missiles it will replace, and a range that compares very favorably with short-range peers like IAI/RAFAEL’s Barak-1, Denel’s Umkhonto, and MBDA’s Crotale NG that sit in the 15 km/ 8 nmi or less range.
MBDA’s response to the saturation threat was to use active homing radar guidance and a 2-way datalink for the missile, removing any strain on limited radar illuminators. It’s similar to Raytheon’s approach with the much longer-range and more sophisticated SM-6, but in a simpler, more limited, and cheaper design. The SM-6 will be able to use the ship’s more powerful radar as an option, and be cued by other vessels over the horizon, but Sea Ceptor can’t do those things. The ship’s radar sees the incoming threat, the CAMM missile is fired, the datalink updates the missile with the current location of the threat, and CAMM’s own seeker takes over once it’s close enough.
A wide variety of ships could make good use of a missile like that, especially a missile that doesn’t need ultra-sophisticated ship radars and illuminators/ trackers in order to be effective. MBDA’s use of a piston-driven “soft launch” approach removes another big obstacle to integration on small ships like corvettes or FAC (Fast Attack Craft), widening the potential market even further. On the software and hardware end, MBDA is reportedly re-using a number of elements from the high-end PAAMS system that equips advanced British, French and Italian anti-aircraft destroyers.
Within the global market, CAMM-M/ Sea Ceptor seems to fit somewhere in between short-range bolt-on naval defense systems like MBDA’s Crotale or Raytheon’s RAM; and medium-range vertical-launch missiles like MBDA’s Aster-15 or Raytheon’s RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow. That’s actually a pretty useful niche. It encompasses the main danger zone for saturation anti-ship missile attacks, which threaten to overwhelm the targeting (illuminator) capabilities of ships that rely on older radar designs and/or semi-active radar homing missiles.
There will always be a temptation for navies to choose medium-range missiles for their superior protection of other ships, and smaller ships in particular create a temptation to default to bolt-on defenses. If budgets don’t allow more expensive missiles, or navies decide that a smaller ship needs to do better than point defenses, Sea Ceptor’s main competitor will be MBDA’s own VL-MICA IIR/ARH missile family.
CAMM Platforms: Sea, Land, and Air
In 2013, Britain confirmed its Type 23 Duke Class frigates, its forthcoming Type 26 frigates, and its Type 45 Daring Class air defense destroyers as the missile’s initial platforms. The Type 23 Duke Class will be the 1st in-service platform, with refits taking place from 2015 – 2021.
MBDA has confirmed to DID that the naval Sea Ceptor will be packed into Type 23 Seawolf vertical launch tubes as a 1 for 1 replacement. Reports also indicate that the missile is designed to be quad-packed into DCNS SYLVER A50/A70 launchers on ships like Britain’s Type 45 destroyers, or in American Mk.41 tactical/strike length cells in common use by navies around the world.
That capability will be an especial help to the Type 45 Daring Class air defense destroyers, whose single-packed SYLVER A50 VLS cells left them with a low number of carried anti-aircraft missiles compared to their global peers. Giving up 12 Aster-15/30 missiles to get 36 Asters and 48 CAMM-Ms is a good trade. Fortunately, heavy FLAADS (M) re-use of elements from the Type 45’s PAAMS combat & launch system should make integration relatively simple.
Compatibility with the globally popular Mk.41 Vertical Launch System under an MBDA/Lockheed Martin MoU opens an even wider market for Sea Ceptor. New Zealand’s ANZAC Class frigates are the first example, with refits beginning in 2016. Britain’s Type 26 frigates haven’t officially settled on their vertical launch system, so they’re also a potential beneficiary.
On land, FLAADS (L) would use the CAMM missile packed onto a truck mounted container, plus a containerized command and control cabin. Because the missile carries its own radar, FLAADS fire units aren’t sold with their own radars, just a secure MBDA-developed datalink. Fielding requires integration of the FLAADS (L) command module with existing air defense systems for cueing. This may seem like a limitation, but it actually makes the system quite dangerous. The fire units don’t have an emitting radar to give their location away and attract enemy attacks, and cueing from a variety of radar and non-radar assets makes it very difficult to silence the missile battery.
A FLAADS (L) prototype was rolled out in the summer of 2009, and is still under development. CAMM-L is cued as the future replacement for Britain’s Rapier missile batteries, but it will be a few years before it’s ready to be exported.
Future years may also see a CAMM-A successor to the AIM-132 ASRAAM, flying on British fighters. ASRAAM is currently guided by imaging infrared, but there are already air-to-air missiles, like the medium-range Russian AA-10 and French MICA, that come in both radar and IR versions. Short-range missiles haven’t used radar guidance over the last couple of decades, but giant strides in fighter radar capabilities, and the CAMM design’s long range for its class, make this a thinkable future option.
Contracts & Key Events
Sea Ceptor hardware delivered to Royal Navy for HMS Argyll;(L).
April 16/18: Potential Sale-Finland Missile consortium MBDA is looking to sell its Sea Ceptor naval air defense system to Finland as part of efforts to help arm the latter’s fleet of Squadron 2020 corvettes. The firm’s offer is based on its Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), and is being made through the three companies—Atlas Elektronik, Lockheed Martin Canada and Saab—currently on the short list to supply the combat management system to the Finnish authorities. Speaking to Defense News, Paul Stanley, MBDA vice president for northern Europe, said that bidders for the CMS deal will propose an “air defense system as part of a package, with recommendations,” after which Finnish authorities will then “make a selection.” That indirect approach in the tender leaves the missile maker relying on the combat systems integrator, which is expected to offer Raytheon’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and Barak from Israel, he said. The Sea Ceptor system has already been certified and installed on three of the British Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates and will be installed on the service’s next generation Type 26 and Type 31 frigates. Exports have also been secured for new Zealand, Chile, and Brazil, while Spain is also looking to conduct a study for its own Sea Ceptor package. MBDA has also teamed with Lockheed Martin to develop a lightweight version of the MK41 launcher for CAMM, known as the extensible lightweight launcher (ExLS), which is intended to fit on smaller naval vessels.
April 13/18: Qualification Testing-ExLS European missile consortium MBDA and Lockheed Martin have successfully completed qualification testing of the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) from Lockheed’s Extensible Launching System (ExLS) 3-Cell Stand Alone Launcher. MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) is a highly compact missile that enables multiple weapons to be fitted in limited spaces. It is the most modern air defence missile of its class on the market and has recently completed a highly successful series of firings by the British Royal Navy. The ExLS allows CAMM to come in a quad-pack arrangement which allows to store and fire 4 missiles from a single cell and is specifically designed for use on smaller naval platforms that are unable to accommodate the larger 8-cell MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS). A MBDA press release said the qualification tests took place in the UK towards the end of 2017.
December 22/17: Milestone-FoC Firing Trials Missile consortium MBDA announced Wednesday, the successful completion by the British Royal Navy of the final First of Class firing trials of the new Sea Ceptor air defence system. Testing was conducted onboard the HMS Argyll where the system was tested against more complex scenarios, including rapidly engaging multiple simultaneous threats. Sea Ceptor will now be rolled out on other Type 23 Frigates, and the first of a series of installation test firings have already been completed on HMS Westminster. The system will take over from the legacy Sea Wolf system, and will allow for frigates installed with the platform to protect other vessels in conjunction with itself. It utilizes the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), which doubles the range of Sea Wolf, and its active radar-seeker allows the missile to engage targets without the need for complex and costly target illuminators.
September 21/15: MBDA has completed a final set of qualification firings of the company’s Common Anti-air Module Munition (CAMM) missile in Sweden, ahead of planned testing next year by Lockheed Martin for the 3-Cell ExLS Stand Alone Launcher designed to fire the missile. The European missile manufacturer has also begun delivering Sea Ceptor hardware to the Royal Navy for installation on HMS Argyll, with the air defense system intended to modernize the aging Type 23 frigate by replacing the Seawolf system currently fitted. The CAMM missile forms part of the Sea Ceptor system, along with advanced targeting sensors. The system is also capable of receiving targeting data from a third party, allowing it to form part of a comprehensive air defense network.
New Zealand, Brazil buy Sea Ceptor; Another development contract for FLAADS (L).
Nov. 28/14: Brazil. MBDA announces that the Brazilian Navy has become its 2nd export customer. The missiles will equip the next generation Tamandare (CV03) corvettes. This class is derived from the homegrown Barroso class, with 4 ships planned for delivery starting in 2019. Brazil’s Navy is also handling coast guard duties, and during peacetime one of the corvettes’ missions is to control and protect offshore oil platforms. Vard’s site in Niteroi was selected in early 2014 to work on preliminary design, even though the yard was known to face problems in recruiting qualified personnel and was working on several delayed deliveries. The contract’s value or timetable were not disclosed. Sources: MBDA; Brazilian Navy; MarineLog.
May 29 – June 5/14: Testing. Sea Ceptor’s 1st full live fire tests are successful. The firings are conducted at Sweden’s land-based Vidsel range, using the 2-way datalink and the missile’s active seeker head to intercept both targets. Sources: MBDA, “MBDA’s First Sea Ceptor Firings Are A Double Success”.
May 21/14: New Zealand. The New Zealand Ministry of Defence signs a contract with MBDA for Sea Ceptor missiles (q.v. Oct 7/13), as part of Royal New Zealand Navy’s ANZAC Frigate Systems Upgrade (FSU) project. The missiles will replace obsolete semi-active guidance RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles in the frigates’ Mk.41 Vertical Launch Systems. Sources: MBDA, “New Zealand Contract Signed for MBDA’s Sea Ceptor”.
New Zealand Contract
May 1/14: Land. MBDA receives a GBP 36 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defence for FLAADS-Land’s Assessment Phase. It will demonstrate the adaptation and evolution of core command & control systems for the land environment, while integrating the missile into truck-mounted and fixed defensive options to replace Britain’s Rapiers.
FLAADS – Land Assessment Phase
2012 – 2013
UK Demonstration phase & Production phase contracts; New Zealand picks CAMM to upgrade ANZAC frigates; UK to begin Type 23 frigate refits in 2015; Mk.41 VLS test-launch succeeds.
Oct 28/13: UK. UK secretary of state for defence Philip Dunne answers a Parliamentary question by saying that Sea Ceptor refits on the Type 23 frigates will be installed as part of their long-term refit program. That program will also outfit the ships with new Artisan 3D radars and other equipment, and refits are scheduled to run from 2015 – 2021. Sources: Portsmouth’s The News, “Frigates to be fitted with new missiles from 2015”.
Oct 7/13: New Zealand. The Royal New Zealand Navy will upgrade its 2 ANZAC Class frigates with MBDA’s CAMM/ Sea Ceptor for air defense, rather than following Australia’s ANZAC upgrade and replacing the ship’s RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles with Raytheon’s RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow.
New Zealand is the 1st Sea Ceptor export customer, and they’re also the 1st customer to benefit from MBDA and Lockheed Martin’s MoU (q.v. May 15/13) around the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System.
New Zealand’s air defense upgrade is expected to be cheaper than Australia’s, and is also expected to be cheaper per missile, while providing a different set of performance advantages in the short term. CAMM’s active guidance is currently an advantage compared to the RIM-162 ESSM missiles aboard upgraded Australian ANZACs, in exchange for shorter range. Both missile types can be quad-packed, giving their 8-cell Mk.41 vertical launchers a maximum load of 32 air defense missiles. The trade-off is that Australia’s ESSMs can use the ship’s more powerful radar for guidance, in exchange for additional work tying the missile into the frigate’s combat system. ESSM Block 2 will probably add an active guidance option, erasing CAMM’s edge and retaining longer range, but that isn’t even in the design stage yet. Sources: MBDA, Oct 7/13 release.
RNZN picks Sea Ceptor
Sept 10/13: Testing. CAMM has a successful launch test from a Lockheed Martin ExLS vertical launcher, using MBDA’s piston-driven cold launch approach. This is the first test under the May 2013 MoU between the 2 firms.
ExLS is a quad-pack insert for Mk.41 Vertical Launch System cells, but the release also describes a “3-cell stand-alone ExLS CAMM launcher” that can be used on smaller ships. MBDA’s cold launch technology is a big plus in that market. The missile’s is launched high by piston, then pitched toward horizontal by small mid-body maneuvering thrusters before the main rocket motor ignites. That allows for bolt-on naval solutions, without worrying about about launch flames damaging surrounding equipment. Sources: MBDA, Sept 12/13 release.
Sept 10/13: Production. The UK Ministry of Defence announces the 1st CAMM production contract: GBP 250 million (about $393 million) for the Sea Ceptor/ CAMM-M. Final assembly will take place at MBDA’s Lostock facility, with 9 Tier-1 subcontractors distributed across sites in England and Scotland.
Sea Ceptor is being delivered under the Team Complex Weapons Portfolio Management Agreement, which will create a common missile stockpile for a future planned land system.
The UK’s announcement of the missile’s platforms is equally significant. Sea Ceptor will be retrofitted to Type 23 Duke Class frigates beginning in 2016, serve aboard the forthcoming Type 26 frigate as its primary air defense system – and complement the Aster missiles on the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers. Sources: UK MoD, Sept 10/13 release | MBDA, Sept 9/13 release.
Production contract & Platforms
Sept 10/13: IMU. MBDA is working with United Technologies’ UTC Aerospace to create a MEMS-based Inertial Measurement Unit for use in its missiles guidance, navigation & control system. Current IMU technologies use higher-cost options like fiber optics, and a Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems unit has the potential to be smaller, weigh less, and cost less. The joint project will be backward-compatible with an existing UTC Aerospace Systems MEMS IMU, which may make upgrades simpler.
A CAMM Missile picture is shown on MBDA’s release, and it would be a logical platform for the new technology. Sources: MBDA, Sept 10/13 release.
May 15/13: MBDA MoU. MBDA signs an MoU with Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin that has the potential to shake up the naval missile industry. It sounds innocuous: both companies agree to jointly explore the market for the integration of MBDA naval missile systems into Lockheed Martin’s MK-41 Vertical Launch System, and ExLS VLS/cell insert. They’ll begin with a late 2013 demonstration involving Britain’s new CAMM-M Sea Ceptor missile.
The implications reach far beyond CAMM. Britain has already been considering adding a set of Mk-41 cells to the Type 45 destroyer, in order to hold SM-3 ballistic missile defense missiles. Adding CAMM to those cells would make the drop-in even more attractive, by giving the Type 45s two things they don’t currently have: snap-launch anti-submarine defenses (VL-ASROC), and a larger array of air defense missiles (quad-packed CAMM). Beyond Britain, MBDA has a wide array of naval missiles, and adding those missiles to the Mk-41 would give that VLS overwhelming dominance in the global naval market. Read “CAMM Opener for the Naval Missile Market: MBDA & LMCO’s MoU” for full coverage.
April 5/13: Sub-contractors. MBDA and Thales tout growing cooperation with lead firm MBDA on CAMM-related projects. Thales Belfast, which works on other missiles like the RB57 NLAW, is working on assessing and modeling heat management within the CAMM missile, structural analysis, and precision manufacturing of some missile components. It’s just GBP 1 million in business so far, but could become GBP 8 million of manufacturing work in the next phase. Meanwhile, Thales’ Basingstroke site is working on missile safety design, arming units, and intelligent fuzes.
The larger goal is a single overall enabling contract between the 2 firms, which will make it easier to place work with Thales. The 2 firms are also looking at the support opportunity created by the British Army’s decision to bring all of its current air defense assets together at Thorney Island. Thales | MBDA.
January 2012: Sub-contractors. MBDA picks Thales Basingstoke to supply the CAMM laser proximity fuze, under a GBP 11 million contract. Source.
Jan 30/12: Sea Ceptor. The UK MoD issues MBDA a GBP 483 million FLAADS (Future Local Area Air Defence System) Demonstration Phase Contract, which would develop the newly-named “Sea Ceptor” to replace the Vertical Launch Seawolf, and serve on the forthcoming Type 26 frigates. UK MoD | MBDA | British Forces News (incl. video) | Aviation Week.
Sea Ceptor demonstration phase
2006 – 2011
Team Complex Weapons partnership launched, CAMM development included.
Sept 13/11: MBDA provides a progress report on early FLAADS-M development:
“Significant achievements are being made in all areas, notably with the development of the FLAADS Command and Control system (featuring greater than 75% re-use of Sea Viper C2 software) and the development of the FLAADS Platform Data Link, both of which are already undergoing trials in MBDA development facilities… The maturity of the CAMM missile design has been shown in a number of important trials in recent months. The novel Soft Vertical Launch concept has been conclusively proven in a number of trials, culminating in a successful ejection and turnover trial that took place on 20th May at MBDA’s Bedfordshire facility… from a truck platform, providing direct read-across to the FLAADS-L programme. Significant progress has also been made with the CAMM RF seeker development, with a series of successful air carry trials having taken place earlier this year.”
March 29/10: The UK and MBDA sign an initial GBP 330 million “Team Complex Weapons Interim Main Gate 1 Partnering Agreement.” One of its items is “Assessment Phase work on… Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS) to equip the Royal Navy’s Future Surface Combatant.” MBDA.
TCW Main Gate 1
Aug 7/09: FLAADS (L). MBDA rolls out its first land-based prototype of the UK’s nascent Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS) at a demonstration to its British Army customer. Janes.
June 2008: Team Complex Weapons is launched as a partnership between the UK Ministry of Defence, MBDA UK, Thales UK, QinetiQ and Roxel UK Ltd. A GBP 250 million Assessment Phase sees its first contract, as GBP 74 million first-year deal for 6 projects, including FLAAD. MBDA [PDF] | QinetiQ.
Team Complex Weapons
July 2006: The UK MoD signals a new approach to fulfilling the UK’s military requirement for Complex Weapons in response to the 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS). The DIS states that missile design is one of the technology elements that Britain must keep in-country. Raytheon makes overtures through its Raytheon UK subsidiary, but it eventually becomes clear that the UK MoD is only interested in MBDA.
* UK MoD DE&S, via National Archives – Team Complex Weapons
Competitors are listed alphabetically by missile name. All are radar-guided, except for Denel’s Umkhonto wich uses Imaging Infrared (IIR), and VL MICA which has the option of IIR or Active Radar Homing.
* MBDA – Aster PAAMS / SAAM. SAAM is the Aster-15 only, PAAMS can also use the long-range Aster-30. Medium to long range, vertical launch.
* IAI – Barak-1 Ship Point Defense System. Short range, vertical launch.
* Thales – Crotale Naval Mk3. Short range, bolt-on.
* DID – RIM-162 ESSM Missile: Naval Anti-Air in a Quad Pack. Medium range, vertical launch.
* MBDA – VL MICA-M. Sea Ceptor’s closest naval competitor. Range out to 20 km/ 10.8 nmi, vertical launch, IIR or ARH guidance options.
* DID – RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) Systems: Contracts & Events. Short range, bolt-on.
* Global Security – 9K331 Tor/ SA-15 GAUNTLET/ SA-N-9/ HQ-17. Short range, vertical launch.
* DID – South Africa Ordering Umkhonto Mk.2 Air Defense Missiles. From May 2011. The Mk.2 extends range to 15 km/ 8.1 nmi, but that’s still in the short range class. It’s vertically-launched.
* DID – UK Unveils Draft Defence Industrial Strategy. The priority on keeping missile expertise led to the Team Complex Systems sole-source with MBDA for a variety of missiles; FLAADS is just 1 part of that meta-program.
* DID – DDG Type 45: Britain’s Shrinking Air Defense Fleet. Confirmed as a platform in 2013. Uses DCNS SYLVER A50 VLS launchers.
* DID – New Zealand’s ANZAC Frigates Getting a Combat Upgrade. Among other upgrades, Sea Ceptor will replace RIM-7 Sea Sparrows in their MK.41 VLS launchers.
* DID (July 21/08) – Britain Signs Through-Life Support Deal for Seawolf Missiles.