The Navy is continuing to massively fast-track production for its growing fleet of Independence variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), while also continuing to up-gun the ships with cutting-edge, long-range precision weaponry, perhaps in a deliberate and visible effort to counter, outgun and out-range the large and growing fleet of Russian Corvettes.
The Navy christened its LCS 30, an Independence variant of the ship built by Austal USA, the future USS Canberra, shortly after LCS 28 completed acceptance trials. The acceptance trials for its LCS 28 in the Gulf of Mexico included a series of combat-preparation steps which includes testing the ship’s propulsion, electrical systems, maneuverability, and “combat system detect-to-engage sequence,” according to a Navy report.
As it maintains a high-uptempo of production for its Independence variants of the LCS, the service continues to upgrade and fire off improved variants of its Naval Strike Missile (NSM), an over-the-horizon offensive weapon able to deck-mount and fire from the ship, without needing to rely upon a Vertical Launch System tube.
As part of these warfare preparations aimed at continuously ensuring the LCS is engineered with the best offensive weapons, the Navy and Raytheon have been test-firing upgraded variants of the NSM, to refine its ability to track and destroy moving targets from long ranges.
“In November of last year, we fired the NSM warhead and we prosecuted moving maritime targets. We recently did very similar tests with the Navy and LCS,” Randy Kempton, Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile program director told Warrior Maven in an interview. “As threats evolve we are looking to ensure that the capabilities we provide to the warfighters keep up with the threat.”
This is quite significant for the LCS which is, by design, intended to reach high-risk areas closer to enemy shores due to its shallow draft. It is able to reach and operate in areas less accessible to deeper draft large warships, so arming it with a long-range over-the-horizon missile, particularly when precision-guided and able to hit moving targets, could give LCS commanders a tactical edge in littoral areas where it might need to destroy inland or ocean targets from safer standoff ranges before the ship itself enters the range of enemy fire.
The NSM maturation is all part of the Navy’s ongoing surge to arm its surface fleet with up-gunned mine-hunting, submarine-attacking Littoral Combat Ships armed with guns, drones, mini-sub-hunting undersea drones, and missiles, something which continues to quietly surge along beneath the radar of a large variety of pressing Navy topics at the moment.
Engineers specifically configured the NSM for offensive attack by building in a programmable fuse with the ability to penetrate prior to detonation for fixed targets, bunkers, or of course enemy ship hulls. Much like Raytheon’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II, the NSM can operate in sea-skimming mode parallel to the surface of the water to fly beneath enemy radar. It is 156 inches, able to travel as far as 100 nautical miles, and relies upon a solid propellant rocket motor booster and JP-10 turbo-jet engine. The NSM was deployed on LCS 10 just one year after the initial contract award.
“It climbs and descends with the terrain and performs evasive maneuvers to counter the world’s most capable defense systems. NSM possesses the capability to identify targets down to ship class — a feature that is vitally important to warfighters who must strike only specific, selected targets in congested, contested, and denied environments,” a Raytheon report said.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.