UK To Procure Naval Strike Missiles for Royal Navy

The UK has announced the procurement of Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile as their interim replacement for the Harpoon anti-ship missiles which previously armed Royal Navy surface combatants. The news was announced today during a meeting of the defense ministers of the Northern Group in Norway.

A UK Ministry of Defence statement announced that the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) will be fitted on a total of eleven Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers. This may include all six of the Type 45s and 5 of the newer Type 23s. The project will be carried out in collaboration with the Norwegian government with Ben Wallace, the UK’s Defence Secretary, noting that:

“We have a long history of defence cooperation with Norway. This new agreement cements our partnership with one of our closest allies, whilst strengthening our Royal Navy with a new surface to surface strike capability.”

The NSM will replace the Royal Navy’s Harpoon missiles which are due to be retired next year, they will also add an additional land attack capability. Cost of the procurement has not yet been revealed but the new missile system is manufactured by Kongsberg Defence Aerospace and will be fitted in the UK by Babcock and BAE with Norwegian support. The UK Ministry of Defence described the turbojet-powered NSM as a ‘fifth generation missile’ which can “precisely strike enemy ships and targets on land at distances of more than 100 nautical miles (115 miles) at high subsonic speeds.”

READ: A Short Guide to Naval Missiles

Roll out of the NSM will follow an accelerated timeline with three vessels to be equipped with the missiles at pace, with the first Royal Navy vessel to be ready for operations in a little over 12 months. The Norwegian Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram, said:

“This is a significant task with an ambitious timeline. Both nations have established a designated team with a strong mandate to ensure the success of this common effort. The Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is supporting the joint team with their expertise and the planned integration on the UK vessels.”

Developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, the NSM is launched from an above deck launch container. It is currently operated by Norway, Poland and the United States with future operators to include Germany, Australia and Canada. The UK has been interested in the NSM for some time with an initial project designated Interim Surface-to-Surface Guided Weapon launched in March 2019 before abandoning the program two years later. This left the Royal Navy’s surface combatants without an offensive missile system.

NSM will serve as an interim system while the UK develops its Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon which is planned to be fitted aboard the new class of Type 26 frigates which are currently under construction. Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon is set to be launched from Mark 41 Vertical Launching System and is planned to enter service in the 2030s.

Header Image: File photo: Independence variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) launches a Naval Strike Missile (US Navy)