Britain’s third cutting-edge Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond is ready to deploy having fired her main armament for the first time.
The ship downed a drone target on a range off the Outer Hebrides using her Sea Viper missile, which rocketed towards its prey at three times the speed of sound.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Ben Sutton, FRPU North
THIS searing flash of orange and red is the moment the third of Britain’s Type 45 destroyers is ready to take her place in the battle line.
This is a Sea Viper missile leaving its silo on HMS Diamond, accelerating to three times the speed of sound to intercept its target a couple of dozen miles off the Outer Hebrides.
Seconds later the missile did just that, knocking a jet drone out of the sky – thus confirming the main weapon system of the Portsmouth-based destroyer.
Sea Viper – a combination of Aster missiles, Sampson radar (the spinning spikey egg atop Diamond’s main mast), a combat and command system (the brains) and a silo on the forecastle containing the Sylver vertical launch system – can destroy a target the size of a cricket ball travelling at Mach 3.
With the words: ‘Standby for Sea Viper function’, one of the silo doors flipped open. Moments later the missile burst through the membrane covering its ‘home’, sending debris whirling around the forecastle, which was hidden by an instantaneous flash of fire and smoke as the missile accelerated to its target.
In this case, Diamond’s prey was a Mirach drone – a 13ft remote-controlled jet which flies at speeds of up to of 530kts (more than 600mph) from altitudes as low as 10ft or as high as 40,000ft for up to 90 minutes.
The successful Sea Viper firing is the culmination of a busy year for Diamond. She was accepted into the Navy under 11 months ago and is due to deploy in a matter of week – making her the fastest frigate or destroyer in recent memory to go from ‘joining up’ to deploying.
A video still of Sea Viper launching as taken by a remote camera on the bow of Diamond, looking astern
Along the way the ship’s company have worked tirelessly to meet all the strict training requirements as well as making sure the ship remains at the highest state of maintenance.
That training was largely delivered by staff from the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation in Plymouth. They tested Diamond in everything she is expected to encounter from skirmishes with fast attack craft to high-intensity conflict as part of a task group against sustained air, surface and submarine attacks simulated by real jets, ships and submarines.
The ship’s company proved they could deal with these evolutions, as well as fighting fires and floods at the same time. But warfighting is not the only task a modern and versatile ship like Diamond may be called upon to undertake, so she was assessed on how she dealt with humanitarian operations like disaster relief and civilian evacuations.
Her training concluded last week taking part in the biggest military exercise in Europe this year, Joint Warrior.
Diamond joined ships from six different nations, as well as land and air units operating in and around western Scotland, as part of a fictional task group conducting peacekeeping operations in an unstable and volatile environment.
As well as final preparations for her deployment later this spring, given the ship’s name she’ll be playing an important role in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
“I am immensely proud of what my Ship’s Company has accomplished in such a short space of time,” said Diamond’s Commanding Officer Cdr Ian Clarke.
“Ever since I took command of this ship in 2010 my focus has been to see the ship declared ready for operations within this time scale.
“Our job when we deploy will be to bring stability and security to international trade routes and protecting our nation’s interests abroad; a job we are now trained and ready to do.”