The British Aerospace "Sea Dart" missile
Hawker Siddeley (BAe) Sea Dart introduction
The Sea Dart was designed by Hawker Siddeley to replace the "Sea Slug" missile (who thought up that name?) to protect the Royal Navy surface fleet. Trials of the new missile started in 1965, and orders were placed for the new missile in 1967. It would go on to have a long service life, with some Sea Darts still in service today. They are due to be replaced around 2009.
GWS-30 Sea Dart history & design
The Sea Dart (Guided Weapon System 30) missile was designed by Hawker Siddeley Dynamics in the early 1960’s under the project name CF.299, as a replacement for the then current first generation Surface to Air missile used by the Royal Navy, the "Sea Slug".
Sea Dart is a two-stage missile, using a solid fuel booster for the first phase of flight to supersonic speeds. The cruise engine is a Rolls Royce kerosene fuelled Ramjet, giving a cruise speed of around Mach 2.5. It has a range of around 30 nautical miles and retains excellent manoeuvrability, as the ramjet remains powered for the whole flight.
The Sea Dart guidance system uses a semi-active radar system and proportional navigation. The four protrusions around the nose of the missile (see right) are aerials used as an interferometer aerial, with targets identified by a Type 965 surveillance radar on earlier versions, later replaced by the Type 1022 radar.
Sea Dart variants
- Mod 0 - Entered service in 1973. Used 1960s valve (vacuum-tube) technology. Range approx 40nm
- Mod 1 - Improved version post Falklands. Updated guidance improved reliability
- Mod 2 - Guidance system update allows for addition of an autopilot. Range increased to 80nm
- Mod 3 - Latest version introduced 2002
The Falklands War
The Sea Dart missile was used by British Forces during the Falklands war, and was an essential component of the defence of the British fleet. Even though it was the "Mod 0" version, which used 1960s Valve technology it was credited with seven confirmed kills. These included an Argentine reconnaissance aircraft and a high-flying Argentine Canberra bomber, while the other kills were at low-level. It also downed a British Gazelle Helicopter in a "friendly fire" incident.
Despite these kills, it was not without shortcomings. In particular, it was ineffective close to shore where the radar had difficulty picking out fast moving aircraft from ground clutter or sea returns. This was not so much the missile itself. Rather it was the performance of the Type 965 radar fitted to many of the British Type 42 destroyers. A few Type 42’s had the later Type 1022 radar which fared rather better.
The Gulf War
During the Gulf war, a Sea Dart missile fired by the Royal Navy vessel HMS Gloucester destroyed and Iraqi "Silkworm" missile. The American Navy vessel USS Jarrett had already attempted to destroy it using its Phalanx CIWS anti-missile system, which had "destroyed" chaff launched by the USS Missori instead!