The U.S. Navy's Master Plan to Turn the Littoral Combat Ship into a Super Weapon

January 17, 2017 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: US NavyNavyMilitaryTechnologyPoliticsLittoral Combat Ship

The U.S. Navy's Master Plan to Turn the Littoral Combat Ship into a Super Weapon

Russia, China and Iran should get ready. 

The NSM is fired from a deck-mounted launcher. The weapon uses an infrared imaging seeker, identify targets, has a high degree of maneuverability and flies close to the water in “sea-skim” mode to avoid ship defenses, he added.

Long Range Anti-Ship Missile: 

Lockheed Martin is developing a new deck-mounted launcher for the emerging Long Range Anti-Ship Missile engineered to semi-autonomously track and destroy enemy targets at long ranges from both aircraft and surface ships.

The weapon, called the LRASM, is a collaborative effort between Lockheed, the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency, or DARPA.

While this emerging weapon is earlier in the developmental process than both the Harpoon and the NSM, it could provide an even more capable, high-tech ability to the LCS. However, industry sources indicate that the LRASM is expected to be much more expensive than the other alternatives, and a LRASM-specific deck-mounted launcher for the LCS would need to be operational before the weapon could successfully fire from the ship. 

A deck-mounted firing technology, would enable LRASM to fire from a much wider range of Navy ships, to include the Littoral Combat Ship and its more survivable variant, called a Frigate, Scott Callaway, Surface-Launched LRASM program manager, Lockheed Martin, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

“We developed a new topside or deck-mounted launcher which can go on multiple platforms or multiple ships such as an LCS or Frigates,” Callaway said.

The adaptation of the surface-launcher weapon, which could be operational by the mid-2020s, would use the same missile that fires from a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System and capitalize upon some existing Harpoon-launching technology, Callaway added.

The LRASM, which is 168-inches long and 2,500 pounds, is currently configured to fire from an Air Force B-1B bomber and Navy F-18 carrier-launched fighter. The current plan is to have the weapon operational on board an Air Force B-1B bomber by 2018 and a Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.

With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets.

Navy officials said LRASM is currently developing along with what it calls Increment 1 to establish an initial air-launched missile solution for the Navy.

"The objective is to give Sailors the ability to strike high-value targets from longer ranges while avoiding counter fire. The program will use autonomous guidance to find targets, reducing reliance on networking, GPS and other assets that could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons,” a Navy statement said.

The missile has also been test fired from a Navy ship-firing technology called Vertical Launch Systems currently on both cruisers and destroyers – as a way to provide long range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air offensive firepower.

Navy officials told Scout Warrior that the service is making progress with an acquisition program for the air-launched variant of LRASM but is still in the ealry stages of planning for a ship-launch anti-ship missile. The Navy will likely examine a range of high-tech missile possibilities to meet its requirement for a long-range anti-ship missile -- and Lockheed certainly plans to submit LRASM as an option for the Navy to consider. 

High-Tech Semi-Autonomous Missile: 

Along with advances in electronic warfare, cyber-security and communications, LRASM is design to bring semi-autonomous targeting capability to a degree that does not yet exist. As a result, some of its guidance and seeker technology is secret, developers have said.

The goal of the program is to engineer a capable semi-autonomous, surface and air-launched weapon able to strike ships, submarines and other moving targets with precision. While many aspects of the high-tech program are secret, Lockheed officials say the available information is that the missile has a range of at least 200 nautical miles.

Once operational, LRASM will give Navy ships a more a short and long-range missile with an advanced targeting and guidance system able to partially guide its way to enemy targets and achieve pinpoint strikes in open or shallow water.

Kris Osborn became the Managing Editor of Scout Warrior in August of 2015. His role with Scout.com includes managing content on the Scout Warrior site and generating independently sourced original material. Scout Warrior is aimed at providing engaging, substantial military-specific content covering a range of key areas such as weapons, emerging or next-generation technologies and issues of relevance to the military. Just prior to coming to Scout Warrior, Osborn served as an Associate Editor at the Military.com. 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 CNN and CNN Headline News. This story originally appeared in Scout Warrior.