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Sistel Sea Killer / Marte

Marte in Roman mythology was Mars, god of war. MARTE MK2/N is a direct derivative of the proven and in service MARTE MK2/S helicopter-launched anti-ship weapon system, both variants deploying the same MARTE MK2 missile. The MARTE MK2 missile, with an effective range in excess of 30 km, is a fire and forget, all weather sea skimming missile with inertial mid-course navigation through way points and active radar terminal homing. The MK2/N system incorporates a mission planning function to optimise operation. MARTE MK2/N fits very neatly into the spectrum of naval anti-ship weapon systems: medium calibre guns for short range, MARTE MK2/N for medium range operations lying within the detection capacity of the ship’s own sensors and MBDA’s OTOMAT/TESEO or EXOCET MM40 BLOCK 3 for long range.

The MARTE family was born with the helicopter version MK2/S fully qualified in 2006 on the AW 101. Today integration on NH 90 has been completed. MARTE MK2/A is the new member of the MARTE family which is designed to equip light combat aircraft. The missile is a medium range anti-ship missile designed to meet operational requirements in complex littoral environments and in blue water scenarios. The mission planning capability is improved in order to minimise operator workload in operational use and to give the best success probability against low and medium size vessels.

For the MARTE MK2/S helicopter version the MARTE MK2/A missile will maintain the same mechanical and electrical interfaces with the platform and the same vertical separation concept, except that the two acceleration boosters will be reduced in thrust due to the fact the firing speed of the aircraft is the same order of magnitude as the cruise speed of the missile. The safe separation will be achieved by a launcher which, during the firing sequence, releases and pushes the missile downwards, using stored energy, and gives the missile a vertical velocity of some meter per seconds.

MARTE MK2/N is a direct derivative of the proven and in service MARTE MK2/S helicopter-launched anti-ship weapon system, both variants deploying the same MARTE MK2 missile. The MARTE MK2 missile, with an effective range in excess of 30 km, is a fire and forget, all weather sea skimming missile with inertial mid-course navigation through way points and active radar terminal homing. The MK2/N system incorporates a mission planning function to optimise operation.

With no need for supporting airborne detection and unlike a helicopter with anti-shipweapons, a vessel armed with MARTE MK2/N can stay on-station for extended periods. With the availability of various launcher configurations, MARTE MK2/N is suitable for installation and integration, either as a new build or retro-fit, on a wide range of naval vessels from 25 to 50 m. Options range from two single or double launchers for a small patrol craft up to quadruple launchers for larger vessels.

MARTE MK2 Mobile Coastal Defence System (MDCS) is the last born of the MARTE solutions that includes the MARTE MK2/N Naval version, MARTE MK2/S Helicopter version, MARTE MK2/A Light Combat Aircraft version and the MARTE ER for the helicopters and fast jets aircrafts. The MARTE mobile coastal defence system has the capability to launch both MARTE MK2/N and / or MARTE ER missile.

Sistel (Sistemi Elettronici) was established in 1967 by five Italian companies with interests in missiles, rocket propulsion and electronics. It was owned 35 percent by Montecatini Edison, 20 percent each by Fiat, Contraves Italiana and Finmeccanica, and 5 percent by Snia. In 1969 Sistel took over most of Contraves' missile work and the complete staff of the company's Missile Division.

The family of Sea Killer anti-ship missiles was begun in 1958 with the Mk 1, a l0km-range transonic weapon developed for the Italian Navy and operational in the missile boat Saetta. The 25km-range subsonic Mk 2 was started in 1967 at the request of the Italian and Iranian Navies, and the Iranian order for 100-plus missiles — about 90 percent Mk 2s, and 10 percent Mk Is for training — has been completed. Acceptance trials took place at the Sardinian Salto di Quirra range from October 1973 to January 1974, with nine out of ten shots successful. The tests were against a 50m-long vessel at 20km range, seven rounds striking the boat and two overflying it. One missile in each category carried a live warhead, detonation in the overflight case—from almost dead astern—being triggered by the proximity fuze tied in with the radio altimeter.

Sistel was concentrating on the South American fastpatrol-boat market for Mk 2 sales. The proposed installation consists of two pairs of fixed launchers canted up by about 10° and giving a firing arc of some 100° on each side of the boat. The company is offering Mk 2 at $100,000/round.

By 1974 naval sales efforts were being apportioned about 60 percent in favor of Mk 2 and 40 percent towards the proposed Mk 3. An active homing head for the 550kg Mk 3 had still not been selected, and the choice was to be left to the customer; Sistel hoped to sign an export contract in the near future. The weapon is some 65 per cent common with its predecessor and will be offered at about two-thirds the price of Exocet. Sistel is program manager for the Marte project, in which all the Italian Navy's SH-3Ds being built by Agusta will carry Sea Killer Mk 2. A two-year feasibility study, completed in 1972, was followed by a ground firing and two air launches of unguided Mk 1 missiles from an AB.204.

The Sea Killer is a lightweight anti-ship weapon, originally produced from 1977 in the Sea Killer Mk 1 variant for installation on fast attack craft and possessing a range of only 5.4 nm (6.2 miles; 10 km) as it had only a single-stage propulsion system. The Sea Killer Mk 1 used the Contraves Sea Hunter Mk 2 radar for guidance and was a sea-skimming missile now no longer in service.

The much improved Sea Killer Mk 2, developed from about 1980, introduced a tandem-propulsion system for greater range with a larger warhead and for terminal guidance an active radar package adapted from that of the OTO Melara/Matra Otomat ship-launched anti-ship missile, and in its ship-launched application uses the Contraves Sea Hunter Mk 4 radar for target acquisition. The Sea Killer Mk 2 was first test-fired in 1984, and deliveries of production-standard weapons were made from 1987; the missile has since been developed in three air-launched models.

The Sea Killer Mk 2 is a two-stage weapon for use in the anti-ship role. The missile is slightly unusual in appearance: the main part of the body, containing the sustainer rocket motor, is a comparatively narrow cylinder carrying two sets of flying surfaces in the form of a mid-set cruciform of moving wing and a tail-mounted cruciform of fixed stabilizing fins indexed in line with the wing. Just forward of the moving wings, however, the body tapers outward into a larger diameter section carrying the shaped-charge warhead and, in the extreme nose, the active radar terminal guidance package with its antenna under a hemispherical radome. The weapon is completed by the booster rocket section appended to the tail: this has a greater diameter than the sustainer rocket section, and carries a cruciform of fixed fins indexed in line with the other flying surfaces.

The Sea Killer Mk 2 missile is cleared for carriage by helicopters such as the Agusta (Bell) AB.212ASV/ASW and Agusta (Sikorsky) ASH-3D Sea King, and is probably to be cleared for carriage by Agusta A 109A, EHI EH.101 and NH-90.

The Sea Killer Mk 2 is the missile associated with the Marte system, in which the missile is fired from a helicopter fitted with the SMA APQ-706 radar: smaller helicopters such as the AB.212ASV/ASW can carry one missile and the appropriate guidance equipment, but larger machines such as the ASH-3D can carry two missiles, the weight of the complete installation with two missiles being 2,568.3 lb (1165 kg).

The baseline Marte Mk 1 system uses a simple development of the Sea Killer Mk 2 missile with the original parallel-section warhead weighing 154.3 lb (70 kg) within an overall missile weight of 661.4 lb (300 kg) and length of 15 ft 5.04 in (4.70 m) complete with the booster stage that is 3 ft 5.73 in (1.06 m) long; guidance over the maximum range of 10.8 nm (12.4 miles; 20 km) is entrusted to a mixture of autopilot and radar altimeter for the midcourse phase and Sistel radar beam-riding and/or optical guidance for the terminal phase.

The Marte Mk 2 system uses the improved Sea Killer Mk 2 described in the specification above with the revised warhead and guidance section based on that of the Otomat surface-launched anti-ship missile. The warhead is enlarged and improved, and the guidance package includes active radar homing to provide the missile with true fire-and-forget capability in a flight profile based on a boost phase of 1.6 seconds and a cruise phase of 73 seconds.

Sea Killer Mk 2A : The other two versions of the Sea Killer Mk 2 are intended for carriage and launch by fixed-wing warplanes, and therefore lack the booster rocket section of the helicopter-launched version.

The Sea Killer Mk 2A is the anti-ship counterpart of the basic Sea Killer Mk 2, and differs only in its lack of the booster rocket section, whose omission reduces length to 12 ft 9.5 in (3.90 m) and weight to 573.2 lb (260 kg). The weapon is cleared for carriage on the Aermacchi MB-339 and AMX International AMX.

Sea Killer Mk 2B : This is the anti-radar version of the Sea Killer Mk 2A, and is designed for high-altitude launch and cruise before completing its mission, under the guidance of a passive radar homing system, with a diving attack for the detonation of a blast/fragmentation warhead. The Sea Killer Mk 2B is identical to the Sea Killer Mk 2A in dimensions and weights, and otherwise differs only it its range of 32.4 nm (37.3 miles; 60 km).

The Marte Mk 1 system was used by Iran, Italy, Libya, Peru and Venezuela, and the Marte Mk 2 was operated only by Italy to date. By 1988 Iran’s serviceable inventory was depleted and the Vosper MkV’s were often seen at sea with only one or two cassettes installed. It was completely phased out in the early 1990s.

The only confirmed attack with the Sea Killer came on 17 October 1986, when the frigate Sabalan struck the Panamanian-flagged tanker Five Brooks. The Sea Killer damaged, but did not sink, the tanker. It is very likely other attacks were mounted but never recorded.

MBDA was awarded a contract 20 February 2017 by the UAE Navy to supply additional Marte MK2/N anti-ship missiles. This is a follow on to the contract signed in February 2009 for the supply of Marte missiles. Each high speed multi-role combat vessel will be equipped with four box launchers for MBDA Marte Mk 2/N guided missile , able to strike targets at ranges in excess of 30 km, flying a fire-and-forget sea-skimming profile using midcourse inertial guidance and active radar homing.

MBDA’s Marte ER anti-ship missile completed its first firing, successfully passing a major phase in its development 15 November 2018. The firing trial was carried out on 9 November in an Italian test range. The Marte ER missile flew for more than 100 km on a planned trajectory that included several waypoints and sea skimming flight, successfully testing all flying phases.

Pasquale Di Bartolomeo, Executive Group Director Sales & Business Development and Managing Director MBDA Italia, commented: “This test is a further confirmation of the robustness of the ER version of the Marte family of multi-platform anti-ship missiles that can be launched by ships, helicopters, coastal batteries and fast jets. The Marte family has a strong and successful history both at domestic and international levels: most recently with Marte ER being ordered earlier in 2018 by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) for their new NH90 helicopters. Marte is a single product family that can cover several missions, offering our customers a high level of operational flexibility in the area of maritime superiority, a domain where MBDA in Italy has been able throughout its long history not only to maintain but also to grow as well as further develop competencies and know-how”.


13NM max, 6.5NM practical


Mach 0.8


Solid rocket

Weight at launch:



71lb HE

Carried on:

Vosper MkV class FFG

Marte / Sea Killer Marte / Sea Killer Marte / Sea Killer Marte / Sea Killer Marte / Sea Killer

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Page last modified: 28-04-2019 18:50:11 ZULU