Unlike Sea Viper and Sea Dart, Seawolf is intended to defend an individual ship rather than a task group, engaging aircraft or sea-skimming missiles. It is fired from a vertical silo on Type 23 frigates, and guided on to its target courtesy of a tracking system on the ship. The original Seawolf had a very limited range of just six miles, but the frigate fleet is in the middle of receiving the latest, more potent version of the missile system. It means that Seawolf can track – and destroy – a target the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound well beyond the limit of the original missile.
Seawolf is the shield of Britain’s frigate fleet against air attack. In service for more than 30 years it has proven itself in battle in the Falklands and remains a potent weapon to this day. If the system was placed in the middle of London, it could track its target over the M25 and knock it out of the sky over the North Circular - and the whole action would last under 20 seconds. Each Type 23 frigate carries out at least two Seawolf firings on ranges off the UK coast before each deployment.
Sea Wolf is a high speed close-range anti-missile with a guidance system of semi-automatic command to line of sight with radar and/or infra-red missile and target tracking. Seawolf is the only widely used missile in the world that was designed specifically to kill incoming anti-ship missiles. This closein defense system is designed to handle antiship missiles in speeds up to Mach 2. The Seawolf missile has successfully destroyed the Exocet missile. It is fitted in Type 22 (Batch 1, 2 and 3) Frigates. The Duke Class Type 23 Frigates have had BAe's vertical launch Seawolf system installed and tested. The missiles are fitted into sealed canisters in a 32cannister silo. Missile exhaust gases are directed up and out the sides of the canister. The missile uses a thrust vectoring boost motor for getting the missile up, out and turned over, then the main motor ignites. The thrust vector and boost motor unit is jettisoned and thereby increases per missile firing costs a compared to other missiles. It is expected that this VLS will be installed on all Type 23 frigates. In late 1997 the MoD invited initial expressions of interest in a proposed Seawolf mid-life update.
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