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The Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Could Be a Killer Thanks to a Missile from Norway

The U.S. Navy has officially selected the future anti-ship missile for its littoral combat ships.

On June 1, Defense News reported that the U.S. Navy has selected the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile as the over the horizon anti-ship missile for its littoral combat ships (LCS). The missile will likely arm America’s future frigates as well. The contract is only initially for $14.8 million, but there are contract options that could raise its value to more than $847 million.

“Raytheon and Kongsberg are providing the Navy with a proven, off-the-shelf solution that exceeds requirements for the over-the-horizon mission,” President of Raytheon Missile Systems Taylor W. Lawrence said in a press statement. “Because it is operational now, NSM saves the United States billions of dollars in development costs and creates new high-tech jobs in this country.”

The competition had originally been a three-way battle between Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Boeing’s extended-range Harpoon missile, and the Naval Strike Missile jointly submitted by Kongsberg and Raytheon. However, last year Lockheed Martin and Boeing dropped out of the competition, arguing that the U.S. Navy had skewed its requirements in favor of the Kongsberg-Raytheon Naval Strike Missile.

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“After long and careful consideration, Lockheed Martin has decided to withdraw from the U.S. Navy Over-the-Horizon Weapon System (OTH-WS) competition,” Scott Callaway, a Lockheed official, said last year when the company dropped out. “As the current OTH-WS request for proposal (RFP) process refined over time, it became clear that our offering would not be fully valued.”

According to a statement released by Raytheon, the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) “is a long-range precision missile that strikes heavily defended land and sea targets. The missile, which can defeat enemy defenses up to one hundred nautical miles away, uses advanced seeker and target identification technology.” Over at The Diplomat, Franz-Stefan Gady explains “The NSM is the successor to Kongsberg’s Penguin short-to-medium range anti-ship guided missile. The missile, featuring an imaging IR-seeker and inertial/GPS navigation, can strike both sea and land targets at a distance of around 185 kilometers (one hundred nautical miles).” It also has the ability to discriminate between the intended target and other ships and objects nearby.

It is currently used by Norway's Navy and Polish forces, with plans for Malaysia and the German Navy to use it in the future. There is also a program to develop a land-attack version of the missile.

The U.S. Navy wants to purchase sixty-four NSMs by 2023. Each littoral combat ship will be armed with eight NSMs based on their deckship. For all the planned littoral combat ships to be equipped with eight NSMs, the United States would ultimately have to purchase 232 of them. However, it is unlikely that each LCS would have eight NSMs.

The littoral combat ship program has faced enormous criticism since its inception. As Sebastien Roblin summed up the ships’ deficiencies, “They don’t have the firepower to hit anything more than a few miles away. They’re unlikely to survive being hit by anything in return. They cost more than twice as much as promised, and require 75 percent more crew to operate than planned for. The modular-mission capabilities that were a key selling point had to be abandoned. And they’re breaking down constantly.”