Tag Archives: HMS Argyll (F231)

Artificial Intelligence

The Royal Navy is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the first time at sea in a bid to defeat missile attacks.

HMS Lancaster (F229), HMS Dragon (D35) and HMS Argyll (F231)
HMS Lancaster (F229), HMS Dragon (D35) and HMS Argyll (F231)

Leading-edge software is being tested at sea against live missiles during the largest exercise of its type off the coasts of Scotland and Norway.

Involving more than 3,000 military personnel, Formidable Shield tests the ability of NATO warships to detect, track and defeat incoming missiles, from sea-skimming weapons travelling at twice the speed of sound just above the waterline, to ballistic missiles.

Three Royal Navy warships are taking part in the exercise, which runs until early June: destroyer HMS Dragon (D35) and two frigates, Lancaster and HMS Argyll (F231).

HMS Lancaster (F229) and HMS Dragon (D35) are trialing artificial intelligence and machine learning applications which offer a glimpse of the future of air defence at sea.

Experts from the Government’s defence laboratory Dstl and industry partners from Roke, CGI and BAE Systems are using the three-week exercise to test their ‘Startle’ and ‘Sycoiea’ systems.

Startle is designed to help ease the load on sailors monitoring the ‘air picture’ in the operations room by providing real-time recommendations and alerts.

Sycoiea builds upon this and is at the forefront of automated Platform and Force Threat Evaluation Weapon assignment, effectively allowing operations room teams to identify incoming missiles and advise on the best weapon to deal with them more quickly than even the most experienced operator.

Above Water Tactician Leading Seaman Sean Brooks aboard HMS Lancaster (F229) is among those who was impressed by the software.

«I was able identify missile threats more quickly than usual and even outwit the operations room»! he said.

Although experiments with AI have been conducted before, this is the first time it’s been tested against live missiles, said Lancaster’s Weapon Engineer Officer Lieutenant Commander Adam Leveridge.

«Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future».

Alasdair Gilchrist, programme manager for Dstl said it was «imperative» that Britain continued to invest in the combat systems installed on Royal Navy warships to ensure they meet present and future challenges.

«Being able to bring get the AI onto the ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove the AI works in the labs, actually getting Navy personnel hands on is brilliant», he said.

Lancaster’s Commanding Officer Will Blackett said the scale of Formidable Shield and the assets and technology involved – the latest drones, leading-edge missile systems and sensors – coupled with the best-trained sailors, scientists and technicians made the exercise a hugely-beneficial experience for all.

«The scale of this endeavour is remarkable – NATO can bring some serious firepower to bear when it needs to and it is exciting to be part of the development of future tactics and equipment», he added.

While HMS Lancaster (F229) and HMS Dragon (D35) trial technologies brand new to the Fleet, HMS Argyll (F231) (the first ship in the Navy to be fitted with the Sea Ceptor air defence missile) has been testing upgraded software and developing tactics to push the limits of her Artisan Radar and Sea Ceptor as part of a task group.

«The sheer weight of hardware bought together in this exercise, and the chance to test the teams and systems against real-speed supersonic sea skimming and ballistic targets cannot be underestimated», said Lieutenant Commander Richard Dobson, HMS Argyll’s Principal Warfare Officer.

«It has built the confidence of the team, pushed the boundaries of what these highly capable systems can do, and will help develop our future tactics in missile defence».

Taking a quick break from dodging missiles the three Royal Navy ships found time to form up for a navigational exercise, demonstrating their ability to operate in close proximity to one another whilst conducting flying sorties with a Wildcat helicopter.


HMS Argyll (F231) has successfully conducted the first firings of the Sea Ceptor system, a major milestone for the Royal Navy as it brings its upgraded Type 23 frigates back into service.

Sea Ceptor firing from the HMS Argyll
Sea Ceptor firing from the HMS Argyll

The Sea Ceptor system, which utilises MBDA’s next-generation Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM), is being fitted to replace the Sea Wolf weapon system on the Type 23 frigates as part of their life-extension programme. Sea Ceptor will provide improved protection for the Royal Navy against anti-ship cruise missiles, aircraft and other highly sophisticated threats.

HMS Argyll (F231) is the first Type 23 to undergo the life-extension programme, and will conduct further firing trials of the Sea Ceptor system before returning to frontline service. Sea Ceptor not only provides a robust self-defence capability for the host vessel but importantly also a local area air defence competency to defend consort vessels within a maritime task group.

Designed and manufactured by MBDA in the UK, Sea Ceptor will also protect the Royal Navy’s future Type 26 Frigates, and as Land Ceptor will replace Rapier in British Army service. The missile uses innovative technologies that provide significant improvements in performance compared with previous generations of missiles.

Compared to Sea Wolf, CAMM is faster, has longer range, has a two-way data link, and has a much more advanced seeker, all of which enable the missile to intercept more challenging targets.

Dave Armstrong, Executive Group Director Sales and Business Development and Managing Director UK at MBDA, said: «Sea Ceptor is the most modern air defence system of its type in the world, and will provide a step-change in capability to the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. These first firings are testament to the hard work of the talented team of people working on the programme across MBDA, the Royal Navy, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), BAE Systems and QinetiQ. CAMM is a perfect demonstration of the benefits of the portfolio-approach to complex weapons between MBDA and the UK MoD, simultaneously delivering world-beating technology to our Armed Forces and significant cost benefits to the UK taxpayer».

Traditional air defence systems utilise semi-active radar guidance, meaning they rely on a surface-based fire control radar to illuminate the missile’s target. By using an active radar seeker and datalink on the missile CAMM does not require the dedicated fire control radar on which a semi-active system depends. This not only removes cost and weight from the vessel, it makes integration simpler and means that Sea Ceptor can intercept more targets simultaneously, and across 360 degrees – something a semi-active system cannot.

The missile’s clean aerodynamic design provides it with improved performance in the air, while also making it highly compact for installation onboard ship. Moreover, Sea Ceptor uses an innovative soft vertical launch system that significantly reduces the impact of a traditional «hot launch» missile on both the ship and the crew.

Besides the Royal Navy and the British Army, CAMM is also the modern air defence weapon of choice for a further four nations’ armed services.



Weight 218.3 lbs/99 kg
Length 10.5 feet/3.2 m
Diameter 6.5 inches/166 mm
Range In excess of 15.5 miles/25 km
Speed Supersonic