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UK Navy unveils plan for new supersonic missile

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A graphic design of the Sea Ceptor missile. A UK MoD photo

LONDON (BNS): To protect its warships from hostile missiles travelling at supersonic speeds, the British Royal Navy has unveiled a plan to develop a new air defence system.

The new weapon, called Sea Ceptor, will travel at speeds of up to Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) and will have the ability to deal with multiple targets simultaneously, protecting an area of around 1,300 square kilometres over land or sea.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday announced that it has awarded a £483 million ($760 million) contract to European missile maker MBDA to design and develop Sea Ceptor.

The missile will be developed under a demonstration contract with MBDA (UK) that is expected to last for five years, the Ministry said.

"The development of this missile system is a huge boost to the UK's world-leading missile industry and once again proves our commitment to providing battle-winning technology for our Armed Forces," Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said.

Sea Ceptor will initially be equipped on the UK Navy's Type 23 frigate to replace the Sea Wolf air defence system when it goes out of service in 2016.

The missile will also be fitted on the multirole Type 26 global combat ship, presently under development.

"This new weapon system will equip our frigates to deal with the type of sophisticated missile threat expected in the coming decades.

"Investment in advanced defence technology, such as Sea Ceptor, is vital to ensure the Royal Navy's continued ability to defend the UK's interests wherever necessary," UK Navy Chief Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said.

The supersonic missile's flexible design also means that it could in future be adapted for use by the Army and Royal Air Force, the Defence Ministry said.

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