The Buzz

The Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Is Getting New Ship-Killer Missiles

Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed. Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.

The US Navy is arming its entire fleet of Littoral Combat Ships and emerging Frigates with a new high-speed, highly maneuverable long-range ship fired missile designed to track and destroy enemy ships in open sea warfare.

The Naval Strike Missile weapon, able to travel on a range of attack trajectories for improved effectiveness, will be operation by 2021, Navy officials said.

“It will enable long range surface strike” Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Alan Baribeau told Warrior Maven.

Integrating this weapon is a key element of a broader Navy strategic shift, in place now for several years, intended to better arm the LCS for more substantial maritime warfare missions than those for which it was originally intended - due to the rapid rise of advanced near-peer threats. Called the Over-the-Horizon Weapons System, the NSM is intended to add greatly enhanced offensive land and sea attack possibilities.

It is engineered to target enemy ships, small boats and other threats from areas beyond more immediate "line-of-sight" targeting technologies. It has an approximate range of 100 nautical miles.

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“All LCS and FFG(X) (Frigate) platforms are planned to receive the OTH-WS. The OTH-WS shipsets will be procured from May, 2018,” Baribeau said.

The first installations, Navy developers explain, will begin in 2020, building upon an recently awarded production deal to a Raytheon Kongsberg industry team.

With an ability to travel close to the surface and at higher altitudes, the weapon is designed to be difficult to defend against, developers explained.

"The weapon does have an advanced seeker and maneuverability. It flies low profile and flies high. It is very survivable in that aspect," Chris Daily, senior director for Tomahawk and Naval Strike Missile, Raytheon, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Already in service with Norwegian and Polish military forces, the weapons is ready, quickly producible and "off-the-shelf," Daily said.

In 2014, the NSM was test fired successfully from the USS Coronado, an LCS.

Advanced Targeting for LCS and Frigate

Longer range sensors will be needed to identify enemy attackers now equipped with long-range precision strike weapons and enable command and control across vast distances of open water and coastal patrol areas.

The Navy vision for the ship further specifies this, saying the “FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”

Along these lines, the Navy's FFG(X) Request for Proposal identifies a need for a netted sensor technology called Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).

CEC is an integral aspect of key emerging ship-defense technologies aimed at “netting” sensors and radar technologies in order to better identify and destroy approaching threats such as anti-ship missiles, drones and enemy aircraft.

“CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information such that the superset of this data is available to all participating CEC units,” a statement on Raytheon's data sheets explain.

Naval Strike Missile Arms Navy Frigate for "Blue Water" War

The Naval Strike Missile is also a key component to the service's emerging multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate designed to to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat, according to service statements.