MoD in talks over anti-missile device for £1bn destroyers

TESTING: A test firing of the Centurion launcher.
TESTING: A test firing of the Centurion launcher.

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A FIRM is in talks with the Ministry of Defence to fit a ‘state-of-the-art’ decoy missile launcher to the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers.

MoD officials have seen Chemring International’s new Centurion launcher in action.

The Whiteley-based business is confident it will now be fitted to the navy’s six new £1bn destroyers despite recent cuts to the defence budget.

Richard Dellar, managing director of Chemring International, said: ‘We are very excited about what Centurion can do.

‘We successfully demonstrated it to the Ministry of Defence in November and we had very positive feedback.’

Like all countermeasures, Centurion works by firing metals – known as chaff – into the air to draw incoming missiles away from their intended target.

It also fires anti-submarine decoys into water to prevent torpedoes hitting the ship.

Type 45s already have countermeasures fitted on board but Chemring says its latest innovation, which connects to the ship’s combat system and rotates 360 degrees on a plinth, is a step ahead of the rest.

Mr Dellar said: ‘At the moment, in order to aim countermeasures, you have to move the ship about which is OK in what we call blue water operations – the Mediterranean or the Atlantic – but these days ships are going closer to the shore for anti-piracy operations so ships are more vulnerable.

‘To position the ship to fire countermeasures could take five minutes and you may not be lucky enough to have that kind of warning.

‘Our new system can position in one second and fire a countermeasure exactly where it needs to be. We’re talking about a state-of-the-art system.

‘There’s nothing else like this out there.’

The sleek appearance of the Type 45s would not suffer as a result of Centurion being fitted, Mr Dellar said.

‘You can set them up with a minimum of disturbance.

‘You don’t have to drill big holes in the deck, which is something no-one wants to do.

‘This will upset our marketing people, but it sort of looks like an upside-down dustbin. It won’t get in the way or spoil the look of the ship at all.’

The cost of Centurion has not been disclosed.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed it has seen the launcher in action but indicated it may be some time before it buys it for any Royal Navy ships.

A spokesman said it would be ‘inappropriate’ to discuss commercial matters further. He added that he ‘could not rule it in or out’ whether the Royal Navy would have Centurion in the future.