British Royal Navy adds Missiles to 30mm Gun Mount

Martlet Light Multirole Missile launchers mounted on 30mm gun mount

Britain’s Royal Navy reports they have successfully tested the “Martlet” Light Multirole Missile from their 30mm DS30M auto cannon mount, a mount similar to the Mk38 Mod2/3 used by the Coast Guard on the Webber class and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter.

This is certainly not the first time we have seen missile launchers attached to a gun. The Israelis have been doing it for years using the Typhoon gun mount which is the basis for the current 25mm Mk38s as used on the Webber class. .

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

The dimensions of the British missile and American APKWS and Hellfire are provided for comparison.

  • Martlet LMM: Length: 51 in. (1.3 m), Diameter: 3 in. (76 mm), Weight: 28.6 lb (13 kg), Range: 8,000 meters
  • APKWS: Length: 73.8 in (1.87 m), Diameter: 2.75 in (70 mm), Weight: 32 lb (15 kg), Range 5,000 meters
  • Hellfire: Length: 64 inches (1.6 meters), Diameter: 7 inches (180 mm) (17.8 cm), Weight: 100–108 lb (45–49 kg), Range: 8,000 meters

The Martlet has the option of proximity fusing and Laser Beam Rider guidance (in addition to semi-active and IR homing), that probably makes it more effective against air targets, particularly smaller ones like drones. It has been used successfully against a target drone. It also has a longer range than APKWS, but is probably more expensive. Its biggest disadvantage from our point of view is that it is not in the USN inventory.

I am not advocating for this particular weapon, but both Israel and the Royal Navy have seen the wisdom of combining missiles with auto cannon.

  • It minimizes manning requirements in that a single operator can control both missiles and guns.
  • It minimizes space requirements
  • It eliminates the need to pass the targeting information from one fire control to another as the target enters gun range.

Unlike separate systems it probably also means you cannot engage two targets simultaneously.

We need a gun for the signaling, the proverbial shot across the bow, but it is not the best way to neutralize a threat. In an installation like this, the missile is more accurate, has longer range, and is less likely to cause collateral damage.

My feeling is that the Coast Guard would be better off with Hellfire than APKWS. We probably will not have to engage a large number of small targets as the Navy might, but our targets might be larger and this might be the largest weapon available to us. Either APKWS or Hellfire would be an improvement over what we have. The nominal effective range of the 25mm Mk38 is 2,700 yards (2,457 m). The APKWS would double this and the Helfire would triple the effective range. Either would allow us to engage from outside the likely effective range of any improvised weapon system that might be used in a terrorist attack, which I estimate would not exceed 4,000 yards.

When the Mk38 Mod3 was announced, there were indications BAE intended to add a capability to launch APKWS from the mount. I am still hoping.

20 thoughts on “British Royal Navy adds Missiles to 30mm Gun Mount

    • The Army is developing turrets to mount on armored fighting vehicles that can include launchers for AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AGM-114 Hellfire II air to ground missiles and a 30mm gun. I do think they tie into a sensor network.

      If you are going to do AAW, you either need a radar or at least a data link input such as Link 16.

    • The advantage of Martlet is that as it started out as a MANPAD (origins go all the way back to Blowpipe, then to Javelin, then to Starburst) the launch method means there is practically no rocket efflux to deal with. And that really is a big deal. A kick motor pushes the missile out of the tube, when it reaches a safe distance the main rocket engine starts. Not having to deal with the efflux makes mounting the missile a whole lot easier than attaching a Hellfire or APKWS. The missile is also a whole lot smaller.
      One thing that remains to be seen is if the mount is also capable of using the Starstreak missile for AA. Martlet will be able to be used on drones, helos and slow moving aircraft (it’s top speed is m1.5) as the proximity warhead may be more useful in some circumstances, but having the m4+ Starstreak to deal with faster targets would also be a handy capability, particularly for smaller vessels where the 30mm is the main weapon.

      • Sorry can’t reply directly to the below:

        I’d expect Starstreak to be more expensive per round than Martlet. Having 3 seperate, small, laser guided sub munitions with small warheads and fusing will be far more expensive than a single, larger semi active Martlet round. Particularly as it is based on a previous generation missile that had a long time in production in its various guises so is well understood.
        The only thing that will change that will be if the Martlet gets the proposed IIR seeker for fire and forget. That has yet to be funded however..not sure if the RN has shown any interest.

  1. Just another example of how viable the concept is. A more subtle lesson is that the smaller the organization, the easier it is to get stuff done…

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    • The only problem being, is that the United States uses CDB (Cast Double Based) solid fuel propellant in its missile, wheras the United Kingdom uses EDB (Extruded Double Based) solid fuel propellant. “CDB” propellant is Neoprene based, which allow for longer storage life in colder climates and is also less energetic than “EDB” propellants. So even if the US Navy acquires the “Martel”, it won’t being using the same propellant and probably have a shorter range…

      • For Coast Guard applications, I don’t think we need to worry too much about large numbers of swarming boats. We do have to worry larger vessels and our current countermeasures are limited, so we probably would be more interested in a larger missile that can be used against both small vessels and large.

      • And what’s the likelihood of the USCG ordering their Armaments independently though a vendor that isn’t either DHS or USN compliant…

    • @John, re: “In what situation would you envision the coast guard needing anti tank type missiles?”

      Hellfire is usable against lots of targets beside tanks. Not sure I understand what you are getting at?

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