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Navy Strategy Arms LCS, Frigate Fleet With New Maneuverable Attack Missile-2021

New Weapon targets enemy ships, small boats and other threats from areas beyond more immediate "line-of-sight"

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

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.

“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.

The service is now refining and analyzing design, sensor and weapons concepts for the new Frigate as it moves into a formal Conceptual Design phase after awarding a major contract.

Naval Sea Systems Command chose five shipbuilders to advance designs and technologies for the ship, awarding development deals to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine Corporation and Lockheed Martin.

The Navy expects that new weapons and sensors will better enable the ship to destroy swarming small boat attacks, support carrier strike groups, conduct dis-aggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare, according service statements released several months ago as part of an industry request.

The Navy hopes to expedite development to award a production contract in 2020 and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. For this reason, bidders were required to submit designs that have been “demonstrated at sea” and already paired with a shipyard for rapid production, according to the service solicitation.

Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.

“The FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking (ISR&T) efforts,” Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) documents released several months ago said.

The “blue force sensor” language is explained by Navy developers as integral to the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept which, as evidenced by its name, seeks to enable a more dispersed and networked attack fleet suited for dis-aggregated operations as needed.

Also, by extension, 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.

Current analysis is no longer restricted to the idea of loosely basing the "hull design" upon the LCS, as was previously the case, Navy officials say.

Designs for the ship no longer merely envision a more "survivable" variant of an LCS. Previous FFG(X) requirements analyses conducted by a Navy Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team examined the feasibility of making the ship even more lethal and survivable than what previous plans had called for, Navy officials have explained in recent months.

Existing plans for the Frigate have considered "space armor" configurations, a method of segmenting and strengthening ship armor in specified segments to enable the ship to continue operations in the event that one area is damaged by enemy attack. Discussions for Frigate technologies have included plans for an MH-60R helicopter, Fire Scout drone and ship defense technologies such as SeaRAM.

The Navy already plans for the new Frigate to be integrated with anti-submarine surface warfare technologies including sonar, an over-the-horizon missile and surface-to-surface weapons, which could include a 30mm gun and closer-in missiles such as the HELLFIRE.

Navy plans for the FFG(X) also call for advanced electronic warfare tech along with both variable depth and lightweight sonar systems.

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Lockheed Martin photo

In addition, Navy developers explain ship will be configured in what’s called a “modular” fashion, meaning it will be engineered to accept and integrate new technologies and weapons as they emerge. It certainly seems realistic that a new, even more survivable Frigate might be engineered with an additional capacity for on-board electrical power such that it can accommodate stronger laser weapons as they become available.

The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. This strategic approach, in development for several years now, emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed to respond to fast-emerging near-peer threats.

Part of the rationale is to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increases its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against emerging high-tech adversaries.

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.

More Weapons and Technology - WARRIOR MAVEN (CLICK HERE) --

-- portions of this story, appearing as relevant news background, were included in previous Warrior Maven reports --

Kris Osborn can be reached at Krisosborn.ko@gmail.com

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Duanen, do you have a source for the addition of LRASM to the LCS at a future date? It's my understanding that was only for the OTH missile and they withdrew. So end of story for LRASM on the LCS at this time.

It's my understanding that NSM is it for the LCS. It's also my understanding (i.e. what I've heard but can't prove) that NSM can go on the rest of the fleet in the future. That the delay in deploying the LCS allowed it to be a test bed first. So as I understand it we may replace Harpoons with NSM in future and/or LRASM may go into the VLS.

Obviously any of these things can happen. But that doesn't mean the Navy plans for it to happen.

The story on LRASM test firing from the new modified deck launcher was posted last August on several national defense websites; you can do a quick search on that topic.

Lockheed Martin also posted an article on their website at LRASM is an LM missile and LM contracted with the Navy to develop and integrate the new launcher.

LRASM is still in development and testing, not yet IOC as a surface launched ASCM.

LRASM is alike NSM in some respects (stealthiness, smarts) but unlike NSM on several respects ... It has far longer range (350+nm vs. 100nm); far heavier warhead (1,000 lb vs. 286 lb); and far heavier (2,500 lb plus booster vs. 900 lb plus booster).

The modified deck launcher lookd very different than the old Mk141 cannister launcher. The Mm 141 uses tubular or cylindrical cells, while the new launcher uses larger squared cells to accommodate the bigger dimensions of LRASM as well as its triangular (instead of cylindrical) missile body.

LM didn't submit a proposal for LRASM on LCS because LRASM is not yet mature or IOC. When the new deck launcher is ready for deployment, the Navy will hold another contract competition for a heavy long range surface launch ASCM that LM will compete for, against a new Boeing Harpoon Block 2 ER. I would expect LRASM to win.

The ideal loadout for both LCS and FFG(X) would be a high-low mix of NSM and LRASM.

Note that Navy budgetary plans call for purchasing only 12, 20, 20, 20, & 25 NSM in fiscal years 2018 (initial award quantity) through 2022, which is not near enough to equip all LCS in service by that date at 8 missiles per ship. Expect that the Navy is leaving enough room in its budget to start also buying LRASM within that timeframe. The surface launch LRASM with its Mk 114 booster is likely to go IOC by 2020.

Okay. The way you wrote it, I took that you knew they were going to put LRASM on the LCS. I must have not understood where you were coming from.

I'm not even sure if VLS LRASM is official for the Navy. I know LM has the cannister shot off the LCS and I would think that would be a sure thing at the appropriate time in development for DDG's and above. And other analysts have talked about adjusting the warhead weight to give LRASM extra range and to give it a multi use land attack properties (sort of circling back to the JASSM-ER range.) If something like that would happen I could see a VLS and a NSM in cannister. A layered effect that you describe. I don't think there is anyway a 4400# surfaced fired LRASM missile will go on the LCS. It's just got too much going on in that little space/weight margin.

Perhaps if the Navy gets its way and goes with a LCS frigate it will have the space/weight. But they've already planned for NSM for the frigate so I suspect LRASM will be a no go unless they pick something other than an LCS. That's just my guess because I know they still want to go with an LCS version of the frigate.

But as you know just because a company touts an ability doesn't mean squat for what the Navy wants or plans. As far as LM applying for the oth on lcs, they absolutely applied and withdrew. That was reported in May of last year. I believe it was Harpoon that was withdrawn because the Navy wouldn't consider the radio link redirect. And I believe LRASM was withdrawn because it didn't qualify due to not being ready in time.

The Navy contracted with LM to develop the modified deck launcher, and tested it at White Sands Missile Range. This was not something that LM cooked uo and tried to sell the Navy. The Navy specifically seeks, under its Distributed Lethality strategy, to put its best long range ASCM on every warship it has. As Navy leaders like to say, "if it floats, it fights".

Why do you suppose the Navy didn't go ahead and install the old Mk 141 tubular deck launchers on the 14 LCS already delivered, when it has already decided, as reported per Kris's post here, that ALL LCS with be armed with "OTH missiles"? (note the Navy did not specify that all the OTH missiles will be NSM). Obviously the Navy didn't want to buy and install the old launcher when it intended instead to install the new launcher.

Also, Raytheon published illustrations a couple weeks ago, after being awarded the OTH contract, of the NSMs mounted in twin, 4-cell launchers mounted on the decks of both LCS variants. Neither launcher illustrated was the old tubular Mk 141, but rather was a new style square tube launcher that just happens to look like the new LM-designed deck launcher for LRASM.

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