United Kingdom

Background

The United Kingdom is one of the nine countries possessing nuclear weapons. It is a very stable partner and supporter of U.S. security and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Britain is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance with the US.

In 2003 the Framework Memorandum of Understanding on Ballistic Missile Defense was signed between the governments of the U.S. and the U.K. and established patterns of cooperation on missile defense issues, especially on the field of research and development. Also in that year, the United Kingdom formed its version of the Missile Defense Agency, named Missile Defense Centre.


Ballistic Missile Defense Capabilities in the U.K.

 

System Operator Number Deployed Platform
Upgraded Early Warning Radar System in Fylingdales, U.K. Joint U.S. and United Kingdom One Ground-based sensor upgraded-early-warning-radar
Principle Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) (Known as Sea Viper in U.K.) United Kingdom  Six Type 45-class destroyers  paams-1-1540x800
 S1850M Radar (Derivative of SMART-L)  United Kingdom Six Type 45-class destroyers  s1850m-radar
SAMPSON Radar United Kingdom Six Type 45-class destroyers  sampson-and-empar-radar

The country hosts an Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR) in Fylingdales, for missile warning and space surveillance missions. In February of 2013, the British military allowed the United States to perform system (software and hardware) updates, without changes to the physical façade of the defense system, on the UEWR. Since 2007, the U.K. government has allowed the U.S. to use the satellite communication facilities at RAF Menwith Hill station to route data to the U.S. missile defense system.

The UK has effective theater-wide anti-ship missile defense capabilities because of its Type 45 destroyers, which are used to shield the British fleet from aerial attacks. Currently, the UK has deployed six total Type 45 destroyers. The anti-ship missile defense components of the Type 45 consist of the Sea Viper missile defense system, Sampson multi-functional radar, and the radar-controlled Phalanx Gatling gun, the latter serving as the last line of defense against incoming air and missile threats. The Sea Viper serves as the primary anti-ship missile defense tool for the Type 45 and provides all around protection against aerial threats up to 70 miles away. Interceptor missiles employed by the Sea Viper missile defense system are the Aster 15 and the Aster 30 that have ranges up to 20 and 75 miles respectively. The interceptor missiles are fired from Sylver missile-launching systems aboard the destroyer and work in tandem with the on-board Sampson radar, the Combat Management System, and long-range radar to identify, track, and intercept incoming aerial threats.

A Type 45 destroyer employed by the United Kingdom

A Type 45 destroyer employed by the United Kingdom

Air Defense Capabilities in the United Kingdom

 System Role Number Deployed Platform
Rapier FSC (Field Standard C) Short-range air defense Five batteries Ground-based; road mobile Soldiers Load a Rapier Missile System During London Olympics Security Exercise
Stormer HVM (High Velocity Missile) Short-range air defense Unknown Ground-based; road mobile stormer-hvm
Phalanx Gatling Gun Sea-based/Short-range air defense Six Type 45-class destroyers

Current Developments

Cooperation continues between the U.S. and the U.K. on advanced technology programs or system-level analysis.  Together with its American partner, it has created the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which is built on the principle that the U.K. will integrate its sensor systems with U.S.-based ships and missile technology in and around Europe, specifically with regards to both Navies.

In 2015, the United Kingdom—in response to increasing ballistic missile threats to its overseas territories and military bases—decided to investigate into the potential of Type 45 Destroyers to operate in a ballistic missile defense role. Recently, the Type 45 destroyers have begun integrated missile defense testing with the United States. Also in 2015, the United Kingdom moved to invest in a ground-based ballistic missile defense radar, which will be integrated into the NATO missile defense network to enhance its coverage and effectiveness.

Recent News

International Cooperation