The Royal Navy has showed off its latest missile in the first successful test of the Sea Ceptor air defence system. Britain's Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin announced that the live-fire test of the supersonic missile, which is designed to intercept and destroy enemy missiles at three times the speed of sound and will be a key system for protecting Britain's nuclear deterrent and aircraft carriers, took place off the coast of Scotland from the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll.

Today's announcement came as the Minister was visiting MBDA, the builder of the Sea Ceptor, at the company's facility at Filton, near Bristol. Sea Ceptor is the maritime variant of MBDA's next-generation Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), which is intended as an all-service missile for the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and the British Army.

CAMM's modular design allows it to be adapted to each service's needs while keeping down costs. The Sea Ceptor Navy variant will replace the current Sea Wolf missiles, while the Land Ceptor Army variant will replace the Rapier. Meanwhile, an Air Force variant will replace the RAF's stock of ASRAAM missiles. Sea Ceptor will be retrofitted to the Type 23 frigates and will be standard issue on the new Type 26 frigates currently being built.

The firing tests were conducted from HMS Argyll(Credit: Ministry of Defence)

According to the Navy, the Sea Ceptor is a considerable improvement on the old Sea Wolf, with six times the range of the latter to cover an area of 500 mi² (1,300 km²). Weighing in at 218 lb (99 kg), having a length of 10 ft (3.2 m), and diameter of 6.5 in (166 mm), it is much more compact than the Sea Wolf and has an operational speed of Mach 3 (2,283 mph, 3,675 km/h). In addition, its improved radar and datalink technology allows it to engage with multiple targets to fend off saturation attacks by missiles, fast jets, helicopters, and drones intended to overwhelm the ship's defenses.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says that HMS Argyll will continue to conduct firing trials of Sea Ceptor before deploying to Japan in 2018.

"The firings are an important step forward in proving the significant improvements over previous air defence systems and further evidence of our commitment to provide the very best equipment to our armed forces," says Tony Douglas, Chief Executive Officer for the MoD's procurement organisation Defence Equipment and Support.

View gallery - 2 images