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UK Royal Navy and Marines test Thales’ Lightweight Multirole Missile

The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy tested Thales’ Lightweight Multirole Missile – also known as Martlet – against a speedboat target, less than a fortnight after the Royal Marines tested a shoulder-fired variant of the same missile against a drone target.

The Royal Navy test of four missiles was carried out by the Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland in the Irish Sea off the coast of Wales, the navy said in a Tuesday, July 16 release, noting that “recent incidents where both merchant and military shipping have been attacked by manned and unmanned surface and air systems armed with explosive devices, underlined the risks faced by Royal Navy units deployed in danger zones.”

The test came just five months after the Royal Navy decided to modify the missile system to fit it to an existing 30mm automatic gun to add to ships’ defense capabilities.

Development of the Lightweight Multirole Missile began in 2008, reportedly expanding on Thales’ experience with the Starstreak missile.

Originally intended for use on the Royal Navy’s new AW139 Wildcat helicopters, the LMM has since been developed to be fired from a variety of platforms including fixed- and rotary-winged Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, ground vehicles and naval craft.

It is designed to be used against a variety of targets including static installations, vehicles, fast in-shore attack craft and drones.

Powered by a two-stage motor, the modular LMM can use different precision guidance modes including laser beam riding and laser designation, and carries a 3 kg dual-effect blast fragmentation and shaped charge warhead with a selectable impact or proximity mode fuze.

The 13 kg missile has a maximum range of 6 km and travels at approximately Mach 1.5.

The U.K. ordered 1,000 LMMs in 2011.

HMS Sutherland’s gun system was first tested for accuracy with the missile fitted, and the Martlet sensors were tested to track a radio-controlled speedboat at 5 km (3 miles) range.

The first missile tested the effects of a launch on the gun system and ship, and then three were fired to measure the missile’s accuracy against a fast inshore attack craft.

“A target boat took a direct hit in the Irish Sea as the Royal Navy successfully tested its new missile to defeat terrorists and suicide bombers,” the release said.

“The rapid integration of Lightweight Multi-Role Missile on to the 30mm gun demonstrates how Thales can quickly develop cost-effective high capability solutions to meet the evolving threats faced by our naval forces,” Malcolm McKenzie from Thales said.

Royal Marines test Lightweight Multirole Missile
The Lightweight Multirole Missile test-fired from a shoulder launcher by Royal Marines, July 2019

Royal Marines test shoulder-fired Lightweight Multirole Missile

The successful Royal Navy test came after the Royal Marines said it tested the Lightweight Multirole Missile fired from a shoulder launcher against unmanned aerial targets.

The test announced on July 4 saw Banshee target drones launched from the shore in south Wales which were then targeted by commandos using the Lightweight Multirole Missile system.

After firing the LMM from shoulder launcher, the operator then directs a laser beam which the missile rides.

The first missile destroyed the target, and subsequent tests employed an ‘optical wedge’ which puts the operators aim off slightly so the target is intentionally missed. The miss distance is then measured by radar to determine the success of the test.

“Currently we’ve had 18 successful shots against the Banshee drone,” Captain James O’Rourke, Officer Commanding of Air Defence Troop of of 30 Commando IX Group said. “I think in the future we’ll be attached to close combat rifle companies, pushing forward and potentially targeting Unmanned Aerial Systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

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