Sea Skua
The Sea Skua is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 lightweight short-range air-to-surface missile
Air-to-surface missile
An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

 (ASM) designed for use from helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s against ships. It is primarily used by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 on the Westland Lynx
Westland Lynx
The Westland Lynx is a British multi-purpose military helicopter designed and built by Westland Helicopters at its factory in Yeovil. Originally intended as a utility craft for both civil and naval usage, military interest led to the development of both battlefield and naval variants...

 helicopter, although Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 uses it in a shore battery and on their Umm Al Maradem (Combattante BR-42) fast attack craft.

The British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) began development of the new weapon in May 1972. The British Government authorised its production in October 1975. At the time, the missile was known as CL 834. In November 1979 the first launches took place at the Aberporth Range in Cardigan Bay
Cardigan Bay
Cardigan Bay is a large inlet of the Irish Sea, indenting the west coast of Wales between Bardsey Island, Gwynedd in the north, and Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire at its southern end. It is the largest bay in Wales....

. Three missiles were launched from the ground and three by helicopters. Further test were made and in July 1981, full-scale production was ordered of the new missile, now called "Sea Skua".


With the missile weighing only 320 pounds (145.1 kg) at launch, a Lynx helicopter can carry up to four (two on each wing pylon). The booster is a Royal Ordnance (now Roxel UK) "Redstart" (steel body), while the sustainer is a Royal Ordnance (now Roxel UK) "Matapan" (light alloy body). The missile flies at high subsonic speed to a range of up to 15.5 miles (24.9 km). The official range is declared to be 15 km, but this is widely exceeded. The missile has two sensors: a Semi-active radar homing
Semi-active radar homing
Semi-active radar homing, or SARH, is a common type of missile guidance system, perhaps the most common type for longer-range air-to-air and surface-to-air missile systems. The name refers to the fact that the missile itself is only a passive detector of a radar signal – provided by an external ...

 system by Marconi Defence Systems, and a Thomson-TRT AHV-7 Radar altimeter
Radar altimeter
A radar altimeter, radio altimeter, low range radio altimeter or simply RA measures altitude above the terrain presently beneath an aircraft or spacecraft...

 (which is also used by the Exocet
The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Hundreds were fired in combat during the 1980s.-Etymology:...

 missile), built under licence by British Aerospace Defence Systems.

It can be set to travel at one of four pre-selected heights, depending on the surface conditions. Near the target, the missile climbs to a height at which it can "acquire" the target. The launching helicopter illuminates the target with its radar (originally the specially developed Ferranti Seaspray in the case of the Lynx), and the missile's homing head homes in on the reflected energy. On impact it penetrates the hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 of a ship before detonating the 62 pounds (28.1 kg) blast fragmentation
Fragmentation (weaponry)
Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of an artillery shell, bomb, grenade, etc. is shattered by the detonating high explosive filling. The correct technical terminology for these casing pieces is fragments , although shards or splinters can be used for non-preformed fragments...

The term warhead refers to the explosive material and detonator that is delivered by a missile, rocket, or torpedo.- Etymology :During the early development of naval torpedoes, they could be equipped with an inert payload that was intended for use during training, test firing and exercises. This...

. The semi armour piercing (SAP) warhead has 9 kilograms (19.8 lb) of RDX, aluminium and wax. The fuze
Fuze Beverage, commercially referred to as just Fuze , is a manufacturer of teas and non-carbonated fruit drinks enriched with vitamins. Currently the brand consists of five vitamin-infused lines: Slenderize, Refresh, Tea, Defensify, and Vitalize...

 is an impact-delayed model.

The illuminating radar aboard Lynx helicopters is the GEC-Ferranti Seaspray I band, which weighs 64 kilograms (141.1 lb), has six LRUs (Line-replaceable unit
Line-replaceable unit
A line-replaceable unit is a modular component of an airplane, ship or spacecraft that is designed to be replaced quickly at an operating location. An LRU is usually a sealed unit such as a radio or other auxiliary equipment...

), a power of 90 KW, two modes (three in the improved model) and a 90° observation field. The Seaspray Mk. 3 had a rotating antenna with a 360° field of view. It is capable of operating in a Track while scan
Track while scan
The track while scan is a mode of radar operation in which the radar allocates part of its power to tracking the target or targets while part of its power is allocated to scanning, unlike the straight tracking mode, when the radar directs all its power to tracking the acquired targets...

 (TWS) mode. The missile flight ends after 75–125 seconds, while the helicopter is capable of manoeuvering at up to 80° from the missile path.


In addition to serving with the United Kingdom, the Sea Skua has been exported to Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (where it will be replaced from 2012 onwards), India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Kuwait, and Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. It was generally preferred to the similar rival, the French-built AS 15 TT
AS 15 TT
The AS.15 and AS.15TT are French anti-shipping missiles. Developed as a replacement for the AS-12 missile, the same task for the rival Sea Skua.-Development:...

, even though they had almost the same performance. The guidance of AS-15TT was radio-command, and it required the Agrion 15 radar, unlike the more flexible British missile. Sea Skua's success in active service and its adoption by the Royal Navy resulted in considerable success in the international market.

Falklands War

Sea Skuas were launched eight times during the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

, sometimes in appalling weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

 conditions, scoring a very high hit rate. Four were used against the 800 ton patrol boat/rescue tug ARA Alférez Sobral
ARA Alferez Sobral (A-9)
ARA Alferez Sobral is an aviso in Argentine Navy service since 1972. She had previously served in the US Navy as .-US Navy service:...

, fired by two Lynx helicopters from HMS Coventry
HMS Coventry (D118)
HMS Coventry was a Type 42 destroyer of the Royal Navy. Laid down by Cammell Laird and Company, Limited, at Birkenhead on 29 January 1973, she was launched on 21 June 1974 and accepted into service on 20 October 1978 at a cost of £37,900,000.She was sunk by Argentine Air Force A-4 Skyhawks on 25...

 and HMS Glasgow
HMS Glasgow (D88)
HMS Glasgow was a Type 42 destroyer of the Royal Navy. The last of the Batch 1 Type 42 destoyers, Glasgow was commissioned in 1977. The destroyer fought during the Falklands War, and on 12 May 1982 was damaged by bombs from Argentine A-4 Skyhawks. Glasgow operated with the INTERFET peacekeeping...

. Two struck the patrol boat on the bridge
Bridge (ship)
The bridge of a ship is the room or platform from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is underway the bridge is manned by an OOW aided usually by an AB acting as lookout...

, one hit the ship's fibreglass sea boat, and one passed over the ship. Extensive damage was inflicted and eight crewmen (including the captain) were killed, but the ship was not sunk and returned to Puerto Deseado unaided. Another four Sea Skuas were used to destroy the wrecks of the cargo ship
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

 Río Carcarañá (8,500 grt) and the patrol boat Río Iguazú.

First Gulf War

During the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, six naval Lynx helicopters were deployed to the Gulf on four frigates and destroyers of the Royal Navy. On 24 January 1991 one Lynx engaged and sank two Iraqi minesweepers near Qurah Island. A third was scuttled.

A larger engagement took place on 29 January 1991. A force of seventeen Iraqi landing craft and escorting Fast Attack Craft
Fast Attack Craft
Fast Attack Craft are small, fast, agile and offensive warships, that are armed with anti-ship missiles, guns or torpedoes. These are usually operated in close proximity to land as they lack both the sea-keeping and all-round defensive capabilities to survive in blue water. The size of the vessel...

 and minesweepers was detected moving south near Failaka island, as part of the Iraqi attack which resulted in the Battle of Khafji
Battle of Khafji
The Battle of Khafji was the first major ground engagement of the Gulf War. It took place in and around the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji, from 29 January to 1 February 1991 and marked the culmination of the Coalition's air campaign over Kuwait and Iraq, which had begun on 17 January 1991.Iraqi...

. Two vessels were sunk by Sea Skuas fired by four Lynx helicopters. The remaining vessels were damaged, destroyed or dispersed by American carrier-based aircraft and Royal Navy Sea King
Westland Sea King
The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines , British made anti-submarine warfare systems and a...


The next day, another convoy of three Polnocny class landing ship
Polnocny class landing ship
The Polnocny -class ships are amphibious warfare vessels. They were designed in Poland, in cooperation with the Soviet Navy and were built in Poland between 1967 and 2002. They now serve in several different navies, and some have been converted to civilian use...

, three TNC-45 fast attack craft (taken over by Iraq from the Kuwaiti Navy
Kuwaiti Navy
The Kuwaiti navy, or Kuwait Naval Force , is the sea-based component of the Military of Kuwait. The headquarters and sole naval base is Ras al-Qulayah Naval Base, located in the south of Kuwait, approximately 35 miles south of Kuwait City...

) and a single T-43 minelayer, was detected in the same area. Sea Skuas fired from four Lynx helicopters destroyed the three fast attack craft, and damaged the minesweeper and one landing ship; the landing ship was later destroyed by RAF Jaguar
The SEPECAT Jaguar is an Anglo-French jet ground attack aircraft, originally used by the British Royal Air Force and the French Armée de l'Air in the close air support and nuclear strike role, and still in service with several export customers, notably the Indian Air Force and the Royal Air Force...


During several engagements in February, Lynxes with Sea Skuas destroyed a Zhuk class patrol boat, a salvage vessel and another Polnocny class landing ship, and damaged another Zhuk patrol boat.

Royal Malaysian Navy Service

The Sea Skua entered service with the Royal Malaysian Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy
The Royal Malaysian Navy is the naval arm of Malaysian Armed Forces. All commissioned ships of the RMN have the prefix KD , which means Royal Ship.-Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve:...

 as part of the package for the purchase of six AgustaWestland
AgustaWestland is an Anglo-Italian helicopter design and manufacturing company. It was formed in July 2000 when Finmeccanica S.p.A. and GKN plc agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries to form AgustaWestland with Finmeccanica and GKN each holding a 50% share.AgustaWestland is now a...

 Sea Lynx 300 helicopters. The missiles supposedly cost RM104 million.

On 16 March 2006 the Royal Malaysian Navy test fired the Sea Skua missile as part of a Contractual Firing exercise. The missile was fired eight miles down range from the 40m Surface Target Barge. The Sea Skua failed to hit its target and failed to explode. The fault was believed to have been traced to a faulty connecting pin wire that ignites the rocket motor. The missile fell into the sea, and was not recovered. The Royal Malaysian Navy ordered Matra Bae Dynamics (MBDA
MBDA is a missile developer and manufacturer with operations in France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the United States. It was formed by a merger of Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles , Finmeccanica and Matra BAe Dynamics in December 2001. In 2003 the company had 10,000 employees...

) to take back the missiles to conduct system checks, and re-tested.

On 12 February 2008, the Royal Malaysian Navy successfully conducted a second firing. The missile was fired from maximum range and hit a surface target.


: Royal Malaysian Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy
The Royal Malaysian Navy is the naval arm of Malaysian Armed Forces. All commissioned ships of the RMN have the prefix KD , which means Royal Ship.-Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve:...

: Republic of Korea Navy
Republic of Korea Navy
The Republic of Korea Navy or the ROK Navy is the branch of the South Korean armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations and amphibious landing operations. The ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, which is a quasi-autonomous organization...

: Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

See also

  • Penguin (missile)
  • Skua
    The skuas are a group of seabirds with about seven species forming the family Stercorariidae and the genus Stercorarius. The three smaller skuas are called jaegers in North America....

     - the bird the missile is named after
  • AS 15 TT
    AS 15 TT
    The AS.15 and AS.15TT are French anti-shipping missiles. Developed as a replacement for the AS-12 missile, the same task for the rival Sea Skua.-Development:...

  • Sea Killer


External links

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