LONDON — Britain’s Royal Navy is to be equipped with a new long-range precision missile in a deal announced Nov. 22 with the Norwegian government.
Eleven frigates and destroyers will be equipped with the Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace built Naval Strike Missile.
The first three warships are being rapidly modified to accept the weapon with the first ready for operation in just over 12 months, the British Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
Defense Minister Ben Wallace revealed the agreement during a visit by the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to Norway this week.
The surface-to-surface weapon is being commissioned in time to meet next year’s retirement of the Harpoon missile which was originally built by McDonnell Douglas before the company was acquired by Boeing.
Harpoon had been earmarked for decommissioning in 2018, but the move was pushed back to 2023.
Last November, the British canceled plans to introduce an interim capability, a move that would have left the navy’s surface fleet without an attack missile for at least five years. That plan was officially abandoned with the interim surface-to-surface guided weapons program resurrected earlier this year.
– This is a significant task with an ambitious timeline, said Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram. “Both nations have established a designated team with a strong mandate to ensure the success of this joint effort.”
The Norwegian weapon, purchased by a number of nations including the United States, closes the gap between the end of the Harpoon and the introduction of a future offensive surface weapon.
The Naval Strike Missile will provide the Royal Navy with long-range attack capabilities against surface ships and land targets until the introduction of its permanent successor, the “future offensive surface weapon”, which is being developed in a joint agreement between the UK and France.
The Royal Navy’s next-generation anti-ship missile is scheduled to enter service in 2028 aboard Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates, the first three of which are under construction by BAE Systems’ shipyard on Clyde, Scotland.
BAE, together with Britain’s other main warship builder Babcock, supported by Kongsberg, will lead the work to integrate the Norwegian missile into the Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers.
Andrew Chuter is the UK correspondent for Defense News.