The Royal Navy has taken delivery of the Martlet, which is guided by precision laser beams and cannot be jammed by electronic countermeasures. Beijing last week renewed warnings to the West to keep its warships out of the South China Sea as it continued to lay territorial claim to a huge swathe of the vital shipping route. Experts say it is “unthinkable” that the Queen Elizabeth will not sail through the sea – particularly because of a new Anglo-Japanese defence alliance.
The low-cost multi-role missile, manufactured by Thales, has been hailed as a “game changer”.
It will allow Wildcat helicopters to counter close-range threats to the £3billion super carrier while its F-35 fighters respond to long range concerns.
A senior Navy source said: “A Chinese drone or unmanned boat getting too close to the carrier is a major concern.
“The Martlet fills a capability gap that we have lacked. We can now counter such threats as suicide boats in the Middle East and unmanned platforms in the Far East.”