16 May 2014
Britain's missile industry is on the verge of disappearance with only the Meteor AAM on the horizon in the short term. The past generation AAM and SAM programs- ASRAAM, Rapier and Seawolf- are all Cold War designs that have fallen out of production over the past decade. Export orders have dried up as well.
CAMM is an effort to revive the missile industry's flagging fortunes on the cheap by relaying on an existing missile along with derivatives of existing sensor and command & control systems. ASRAAM has not been especially competitive in the world AAM market due to a prolonged gestation and development difficulties and has been largely overshadowed by AIM-9X and IRIS-T. In contrast to the ASRAAM, CAMM/Sea Ceptor will use a new active radar seeker.
The CAMM effort is further evidence of the collapse of multi-national European missile efforts under MBDA. In theory, the British FLAADS requirement could be satisfied by MICA-VL which is basically in the same niche as FLAADS. Instead, the British side of MBDA is engaging in an entirely separate effort from the French or Germans to satisfy domestic needs and to create an attractive export product to re-place the past generation of Rapier/Seawolf.
An air-launched version of CAAM may revert back to an IIR seeker in view of the fact that the UK is planning on adopting the active-radar Meteor for the Typhoon fighter.
From a funding perspective, the CAMM program has reasonably good prospects as the British internal market is large enough to sustain such a program. The CAMM(A) is a likely candidate for Britain's F-35 JSF fighters, and the Type 26 frigate program alone provides justification for the effort. Sea Ceptor has already received an export order from New Zealand, and MBDA is trying to woo Australia to switch from the RIM-162 ESSM. MBDA views ESSM as its main competitor and claims to offer significant cost savings. The other likely candidates for Sea Ceptor would be navies operating older British naval SAMs such as Seawolf.
MBDA has specifically mentioned Chile, since their inventory will be age-expired around 2020. MBDA has spoken about having the missile in service by 2016 which seems optimistic considering the state of firing trials to date.