Friday, May 14

Preview: Takom launches their new combo 1/35th scale Sea Wolf & Sea Dart salvos...

Two very well known ship-borne missile systems are the subject for the latest release from Takom, both of these systems are offered in the same boxing. We look at both of the missiles - what they are & what we know about the kits from Takom in our preview...

A double shot of Royal Navy whoop-ass from Takom in July...

GWS-30 Sea Dart & GWS-25 Sea Wolf, 
1/35th scale
Kit No #2138
2 missile sets in the one boxing.
Expected release in July.
Wait - what are they - and what the difference between the Sea Wolf, Sea Dart?

Sea Wolf
A Self-defence surface-to-air missile, highly automated but short ranged. Designed to protect the Type 22 frigates against a range of threats, but especially anti-ship missiles: either big air-launched threats like the AS-4 Kitchen or short-ranged submarine-launched missiles like SS-N-7 Starbright (arming the Soviets' Charlie-class attack submarines).

Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall fires a Sea Wolf missile from her forward launcher, April 2009
The original GWS.25 Sea Wolf outfit consisted of a six-round trainable launcher plus a Radar 910 tracker, which used an I-band radar to lock onto the target, tracked the outgoing missiles (each 910 could control two missiles at one target), and sent them guidance commands to direct them to hit it (or miss close enough for fuze trigger). A Type 22 frigate had two Sea Wolf systems (fore and aft) and a few Leander-class got a single Sea Wolf forward.

A Sea Wolf surface-to-air missile on display at the South Australian Aviation Museum, Port Adelaide
Sea Wolf saw some use in the Falklands in 1982: one firing opportunity was lost because the automated system kept switching targets between two approaching aircraft (it was programmed to destroy the most dangerous threat first, but as they were weaving on their attack run the priority kept changing: a very quick software patch - by a Marconi engineer, sea-riding aboard Brilliant - introduced the "I've started so I'll finish" rule to fix that). Another raid of four aircraft had three destroyed by Wolf in quick succession while the fourth crashed into to sea trying to evade.

HMS Cornwall test-fires a Sea Wolf from her aft mounting, April 2009
Targets flying at very low level caused problems with multipath returns from the sea surface (generating false targets where some radar came straight off the target and some bounced off the sea on the way there and/or back), so a backup mode used a TV tracker for the Missile Director to manually follow the target (the system then guided the missiles to intercept automatically). This was first upgraded with a thermal imager to give it night and bad-weather capability, and then replaced with a millimetre-band radar based on the "Blindfire" system used by the Army's Rapier that restored fully-automatic function. (This brought the tracker to Radar 911 status)
The Type 23 frigates upgraded to GWS.26, which kept two Radar 911s fore and aft, but instead of mechanically-trained launchers they had 32 Sea Wolf in a vertical silo for 360° cover and no reloading delays. The final evolution of Sea Wolf (aside from incremental improvements to the missile itself - improving the fuzing, replacing pneumatic controls with electrical actuators and so on) was the Mid Life Update that brought it to GWS.26 Mod 1 status: this added a thermal camera to give a third sensor channel, and improved the fusion of the sensor data so that incoming threats and outgoing missiles could be more precisely tracked (turning "missing it, but close enough for proximity fuze and warhead kill" into "speared the target, direct hit"). Quoted range for Wolf is about three miles (at intercept) - so you might shoot at an incoming threat at a range of five or six miles to hit it at three. Wolf is primarily a self-defence missile, but you can "goalkeep" another ship like an aircraft carrier so it's inside your protected area.

Sea Dart
Sea Dart (GWS30) was a quite successful medium-range ship-borne Surface to Air Missile. It was stored in a below-decks magazine, moved by trolley to the launcher hoists, and the twin-arm launcher then aimed the weapon for its initial flight. A solid rocket booster kicked it from a standstill to Mach 3 in three seconds flat, then a ramjet motor kept it at that speed to a range of forty miles. (So, a supersonic inbound threat could be engaged at seventy miles or so, to be hit at forty). The missile used semi-active radar guidance: the Radar 909 tracker locked onto the target with its tracking radar, then lit it up with J-band radar illumination and the missile homed on that reflected energy.

Sea Dart Missiles Onboard HMS Edinburgh
The first Sea Dart ship was HMS Bristol, then the Type 42 destroyers followed: each with one Sea Dart launcher and two Radar 909 trackers. The three Invincible-class carriers were also built with Sea Dart, though this was later removed to give more deck space and magazine stowage for aircraft.

Sea Dart drill missiles on HMS Edinburgh in 2012
Sea Dart had a busy campaign in the Falklands, despite the Argentines being very familiar with the system (we'd sold them two Type 42 destroyers in the 1970s when tensions had been lower). It forced them to fly almost suicidally low to avoid its threat (reducing their range, payload and ability to find targets), and even then Dart managed six or eight enemy kills (plus one tragic blue-on-blue - comms and IFF failures, not a missile fault) in 28 valid firings, one of the best performances for a SAM system so far.

HMS Illustrious firing a Sea Dart missile 
Sea Dart got steady if minor upgrades as its replacement was 'imminent' through the 1980s and then the 1990s - lots of failed projects - to improve its performance against low-flying targets, its reaction time and its lethality against small fast targets. In 1991, HMS Gloucester was covering the battleship USS Missouri and the mine-warfare group clearing a path for her to get into gunnery range of the Kuwaiti coast, when the Iraqis fired two Seersucker anti-ship missiles: one ditched shortly after launch, Gloucester shot the other down with a Sea Dart salvo (the first was a direct hit, the second exploded in the debris)

Sea Dart or GWS30 British surface-to-air missile system built by British Aerospace
Sea Dart was a very capable system for its time, though limited by its guidance (only two targets at a time) and slower to respond than modern systems - it was vulnerable to saturation, but very lethal to whatever it shot at.

This new kit from Takom:
Inside the box will be two different kits - both the Sea Wolf  and the Sea Dart missile systems with their pedestal stands / mounts are included, both in 1/35th scale. Both of these will match the earlier Soviet missile and guns for ships that Takom seem to be forging ahead with now.
This kit is due in July

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