A brief overview of the Key weapons systems carried by Royal Navy vessels.


The main anti-ship weapon carried by RN escort ships is the sea-skimming Harpoon Block 1C missile. The Type 23 frigates (and eventually the Type 45 destroyers) mount 8 in missile canisters bolted to the deck. The Harpoon system is over 30 years old and approaching obsolescence as it may be defeated by modern countermeasures. The MoD is even considering withdrawing the missile in 2018 which would leave a major gap in capability. The LRASM (Long Range Anti Ship Missile) system under development in the US would be a possible replacement.

Tomahawk Missile

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is a very accurate cruise missile able to hit land targets up to 1000 miles away from the point of launch. Currently only carried by RN submarines. As a short-sighted cost-saving measure this highly flexible weapon is not being fitted to the Type 45 destroyers The RN is re-building its stocks of this well used weapon before the US production line is closed in 2016.

Sea Viper

Sea Viper / Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS) is a European project to produce a shipborne anti-aircraft & anti-missile system designed to provide ‘area defence’ for a group of ships. It comprises several systems – Aster missiles, Sampson radar, Sylver launchers and the command system. Carried on the Type 45 Destroyers, if it works as advertised should be able to deal with multiple modern supersonic missiles and aircraft attacks.

Sea Wolf Missile

Highly effective short-range system for defence against air or missile attack, now only carried by the Type 23 frigates. Unfortunately not fitted to any other vessels due to budgetary constraints. Missile stocks were upgraded to Block 2 standard from 2005. The system software and sensors are currently undergoing the “Seawolf Medium-Life Upgrade” program which will vastly improve performance against the latest generation of agile supersonic anti-ship missiles. The Sea Wolf will be replace in service by the Sea Ceptor missile which began development in 2012. Sea Ceptor development image board here.

114mm/4.5″ Mk 8 gun

Carried by all frigates and destroyers in RN service. General purpose gun with a range of about 20 miles, effective when used for bombardment of targets on land but can be used against surface targets. All ships have received the improved Mod 1 version of the gun.


Close In Weapon Systems – last ditch defensive weapons for ships against aircraft, missiles, or even suicide bombers in speedboats. Fully automated radar and gatling gun systems: Phalanx and Goalkeeper are fitted to most RN warships and some RFAs. Other more basic CIWS include manually aimed cannons and machine guns.


The RN has 2 types of torpedo in service. The StingRay is a fast lightweight and maneuverable torpedo designed to be dropped from helicopters and escort ships for use against submarines. The Spearfish is a heavyweight torpedo fired from submarines against ship or submarine targets. Both the Sting Ray and Spearfish have received upgrades in capability.