HMS Dragon has become the fourth and latest new destroyer to show she can blast a target out of the skies.
The Portsmouth-based Type 45 launched a Sea Viper at an incoming drone on the ranges of the Outer Hebrides, thus proving her main weapon system is ready for action.
And thus did Dragon spew fire and prove she is almost ready to join the line of battle alongside her sisters.
HMS Dragon became the fourth and latest Type 45 destroyer to blast a target out of the Scottish skies and prove that she can do exactly what she was built for.
In almost perfect conditions on a rare hazy summer’s afternoon off the Outer Hebrides, Dragon fired her main weapon system for the first time.
A Sea Viper missile left the silo on the Portsmouth-based warship’s forecastle, accelerating to three times the speed of sound in little more than the blink of an eye.
And seconds later her target, a Mirach drone, disintegrated over the Atlantic.
Splash one bogey.
The drone is 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 – although the spec for Sea Viper says she can destroy a target the size of a tennis ball incoming at Mach 3.
Five days were allocated to make sure the ship’s company and systems were ready to deal with the ‘threat’ of an incoming missile.
Three days in and all was ready. The call came to authorise a ‘hot run’ – a real firing exercise, increasing the working tension, as sensors and communications circuits were tested to make sure they were properly functioning.
The missile was coming in towards the vicinity of the ship and the Command order to “take” the target (the executive order to engage with Sea Viper) was made by Dragon’s operations officer, Lt Cdr Duncan MacRae RAN.
“I have been involved in a couple of missile shoots but this one was by far and away the most rewarding as I was in the hot seat giving the order to engage,” the Australian officer said.
He was only one member of the team that ensured the firing went as planned.
Lt Cdr Kevin Miller, Dragon’s weapon engineering officer, said: “The engineering behind the scenes to ensure that the missile accurately reaches the target and destroys it is immense.
“The Sea Viper missile itself is just one small component of the missile system that comprises some advanced radars and powerful computers to do all the maths involved in an engagement.”
The head of the team responsible for looking after Sea Viper aboard Dragon, CPO Ian Dryburgh, added: “I am over the moon that it all went according to plan. I had no doubts that it would all go according well and the kit performed admirably throughout.
“Now all we’ve got to do is scrub off the marks made by the efflux on the top of the missile silo.”
For Dragon’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Darren Houston, said it had taken a team effort by all 180 souls aboard his ship to make the firing a success.
“What has been particularly pleasing is the way in which everyone onboard recognises that they have each played a part in making this happen, from the marine engineers with their efficient power and propulsion through to the logistics team that ensure the equipment receives all the stores support available,” he added.
“This firing is but a small step on Dragon’s road to deployment next year and the team have worked really hard to get us where we are today.”
After a visit to Belfast – the first by a Type 45 to Northern Ireland – Dragon’s work-up continues with operational sea training off the south west coast of England before advanced training with a French carrier battle group.
With Dragon now a long way down the road to operational duties, the fifth of the six-strong class of new destroyers is on the cusp of being handed over to the Navy.
HMS Defender will make her debut in Portsmouth on July 25 and, upon her arrival, will be formally handed over to the Royal Navy, with the White Ensign being raised for the first time.