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The new air-to-ship guided missile for the British and French armed forces has now reached operational readiness with the last successful qualifying shot. In the case of Sea Venom (Venom, English: Gift), which is jointly financed by France and Great Britain, also with the abbreviation ANL (Anti-Navire Léger = light anti-ship) in French usagemissile), it is a guided missile that can be used to attack surface targets from a helicopter.

Sea Venom / ANL, a helicopter-based guided missile system used to combat surface and land targets, jointly funded by the UK and French governments. For the manufacturer MBDA the next-generation multi-purpose attack weapon., Photo: MBDA

The 120 kg rocket with its 30 kg warhead has a range of around 20 kilometers. It can independently fly pre-programmed profiles, including deep flight (sea skimming) and pop-up attack. A two-way data link sends the infrared images from the seeker head to the carrier helicopter, which not only increases precision. The operator can intervene during the entire duration of the flight. This enables tactical refinements and, if necessary, a change of target. Combating land targets is possible. According to the manufacturer MBDA, several missiles can be used against different targets at the same time.

The initiative to develop ANL / Sea Venom goes back to efforts by London and Paris to develop a successor missile for the Sea Skua, which was then used in both navies, which began in 2001. When British-French security and defense cooperation with the Lancaster House Agreement was resumed in November 2010, the program received a new impetus. A cooperation agreement was reached for the development of the Future Air to Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW), which should replace the Sea Skua air-to-surface missile. The British arms authority Defense Equipment and Support (DE&S) signed a contract with the British subsidiary of MBDA on behalf of both countries in March 2014 for 500 million British pounds (at today's exchange rate approx. 560 million euros) for the development and manufacture of the missile.

For example, ANL / Sea Venom became the first joint program in the 2010 commitment made by France and Great Britain with the Lancaster House Agreement to streamline the arms sector on both sides of the English Channel. This led to the government agreement in 2015 to consolidate the Anglo-French missile industry. Under pressure to reduce development costs and optimize investments, the two countries became interdependent while maintaining their respective strategic autonomy. The aim was to cut costs at MBDA by around a third.

Royal Navy AW159 with Sea Venom, Photo by Mod UK

With the second successful qualifying round, the program seems to be on schedule. The Royal Navy will use ANL / Sea Venom in the AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat helicopters. In the French Navy, which, according to unconfirmed information, will receive 100 missiles, the missile is intended for the future H160M Guépard, which, however, will not arrive until 2025/26.

In addition, the French Defense Minister Florence Parly announced that MBDA will develop a new tactical air-to-surface guided missile (MAST-F) as the main armament of the French Tiger attack helicopters. In October, the company announced the launch of its new VL Mica NG air defense system - an advancement within the Mica air-to-air missile range available for land and naval applications. Marte ER, like ANL / Sea Venom from the light air-to-surface missile category, completed a second test campaign in Sardinia in February. The Italian Navy plans to use it as a supplement to the Marte MK2 / S used on helicopters NFH90 and AW101.

ANL / Sea Venom and Marte ER could be candidates for the missile armament of the Sea Tiger of the German Navy.

Hans Uwe Mergener