Amid rising tensions in the South Atlantic, the Royal Navy has deployed its most potent piece of hardware to patrol the seas around the disputed Falkland Islands.
HMS Dauntless, 8,000 tonnes of fully armed displacement, is currently sailing south at a speed of 30 knots. A type 45 destroyer, the £1billion ship is the RN's latest piece of kit, designed to provide an air defence shield for an entire task force.
Built in Glasgow and officially commissioned last year, the destroyer's maiden mission is to replace MHS Montrose as the main deterrent around the archipelago.
The 152 metre-long vessel (it's the length of 16 double decker buses) is considered one of the most advanced air defence warships in the global theatre, boasting the Sea Viper missile system, described by the Ministry of Defence as “the punch of the type 45”.
Sea Viper's strike capability has a range of up to 70 miles, while the highly maneuverable missiles, which travel at speeds in excess of Mach four, can knock drones, aircraft or even other missiles from the air, guided to their target by the Samson radar - the large top on the ship’s distinctive tall mast.
Defences also include a 4.5-inch gun on the forecastle (the forward part of the upper deck), which can fire 24, 80lbs high explosives with a range of around 12 miles for bombarding shore or sea targets, as well as two 30mm calibre guns amidships and a radar-controlled Gatling gun.
The destroyer's shape is designed to reduce its radar signature, making it appear no bigger than a trawler on an enemy's screen, while the complement of 190 British sailors travel in relative comfort, with six to a cabin and iPad chargers.
Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, Nick Brown, the editor-in-chief of Jane’s International Defence Review, highlighted the radar and the missile system as the ship’s true “cutting edge” feature.
“It’s certainly one of the most advanced air defence ships in the world,” he said.
“The US Aegis system is similar, but Sea Viper is more advanced… as it can engage multiple targets simultaneously.”
The exact figure of targets the ship can engage at once is classified, but Brown says it’s a “huge, huge number”.
“Some versions of the Type 45 can even track satellites,” he said.
Theoretically, the ship can take out incoming ballistic missiles, though Brown points out that the ship “has not proven it can do that yet”.
On the possibility of a successful attack against the ship, Brown maintains “nothing is invulnerable, however because of its above water warfare system, it’s very well protected from threats in the air."
"It has a pretty good anti-submarine warfare package as well,” he adds.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, General Sir Mike Jackson said that it would be "just about impossible" to retake the Falklands following an invasion without aircraft carriers.
Brown is similarly cautious: “We certainly wouldn’t be able to do what we did in in ‘82," he said, "so we’d have to fight a war in a different way. We wouldn’t have aircraft that could carry out strike missions on the islands so it would be a very different type of war. We do have advanced anti-warfare capabilities and very advanced submarine capabilities, but it always depends on what type of threat you’re facing."
“The Argentines would of course be able to set their own agenda, which is always beyond the control of the Royal Navy.”
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