Monday, February 09, 2015

More tools please; and faster

One of the gaping maws in our warfighter capability is offensive anti-surface warfare. As we have become complacent in our dominance at sea, we have in many respects lost the ability to meet another fleet that may come out to greet us - greet us on their terms. We discussed this topic a couple of weeks ago on Midrats with Bryan McGrath - specifically with regards to later flights of DDG-51s.

The powers that be know this, but an effective and modern replacement for our Harpoon is many POM cycles away from being ready to stand in line in numbers to make a difference. 

There is also that nagging feeling that many have, including your humble blogg'r, that there is too much risk in only having one or two weapons systems. Too easy to counter, too much at stake.

Along those lines, something came up recently that our friend Bryan asked, "Son of TASM?"
A synthetically guided Tomahawk cruise missile successfully hit its first moving maritime target Jan. 27 after being launched from USS Kidd (DDG 100) near San Nicolas Island in California.

The Tomahawk Block IV flight test demonstrated guidance capability when the missile in flight altered its course toward the moving target after receiving position updates from surveillance aircraft.

“This is a significant accomplishment,” said Capt. Joe Mauser, Tomahawk Weapons System (PMA-280) program manager. "It demonstrates the viability of long-range communications for position updates of moving targets. This success further demonstrates the existing capability of Tomahawk as a netted weapon, and in doing so, extends its reach beyond fixed and re-locatable points to moving targets.”
Yes, Tomahawk is slow and is a big target. Yes, as an anti-ship missile in the second decade of the 21st Century it has its limitations, but that isn't what is important.

Take that capability and roll it in to what we're doing with LRASM.
The LRASM program aims to reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links, and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. Autonomous guidance algorithms should allow the LRASM to use less-precise target cueing data to pinpoint specific targets in the contested domain. The program also focuses on innovative terminal survivability approaches and precision lethality in the face of advanced counter measures.

The LRASM program began in 2009 to ensure that the United States leads technology advancement for best-in-world operational Anti-Surface Warfare capability into the future. The program, currently in the second of two phases, initially focused on technology for two variants, the LRASM-A and LRASM-B. LRASM-A leverages the state-of-the-art Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) airframe and incorporates additional sensors and systems to achieve a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile. Designs for LRASM-B focused on operating at the other end of the spectrum for precision strike weapons—high-altitude and supersonic speed over stealthy penetration.

Working in close collaboration with the Navy to provide warfighters a capability that can make a difference at sea in the near term, DARPA decided in January 2012 to focus solely on technology development for LRASM-A, ceasing development of LRASM-B. By consolidating investments to focus solely on advancing LRASM-A technologies, DARPA aims to reduce risk and expedite delivery of cutting-edge capability to the fleet.
More tools in the toolbox - or just nothing more than more intellectual effort to addressing an obvious shortfall: as we focus on protecting our fleet from attack, so to must we make potential foes do the same.

With so many of our surface ships lacking even a Harpoon - any way to shoehorn in anti-surface capabilities the better. Worst case, like Torpedo-8, it can absorb the enemies attention while other platforms go in for the kill. 

Perfect? No. Good? Yes ... now to get that capability in to the Fleet - that is another matter.

UPDATE: Video from our friend Sam LaGrone:

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