Antiship Missiles in the News
Bill Sweetman at the Ares Blog gives details of future Western and Israeli anti-ship missiles in the works, a weapon we contend is the new decider in naval warfare and the longbow at sea. First, beginning with the US Navy’s latest version of the Tomahawk:
At the U.S. Navy League exhibition in Washington this month, Raytheon Missile Systems will unveil an upgrade to the BGM/UGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV land-attack cruise missile that will make it a multirole weapon capable of hitting moving ships…
The missile is designed to kill or disable large, hardened warships in difficult environments such as littoral waters, over a greater range than Boeing’s Harpoon/Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), the U.S. Navy’s standard antiship missile. The Raytheon warhead is twice as large as SLAM’s, and the 900-naut.-mi. range is six times greater. This is not an antipirate weapon, and it is not hard to guess which navy is the most likely target.
More on this new weapon later. For a smaller version, we have the Italian Marte, geared to launch from helicopters or small warships:
MBDA’s Mk2 series Marte is smaller and lighter than the Mk1, which was developed in the 1980s for Italian navy helicopters. The Mk2 has a launch weight of 324 kg. (713 lb.), so a helicopter in the Super Lynx class can carry two. It is more maneuverable and has a 30-km. (18-mi.) range, thanks to an improved solid-propellant sustainer rocket. With a 74-kg. semi-piercing incendiary warhead, loaded with 27 kg. of insensitive explosive, it can destroy a 600-ton vessel, disable a 1,500-ton corvette or light frigate and deliver a serious blow to a 3,000-ton frigate.
A consortium of defense contractors within the UK is working on the Future Antiship Guided Weapon (FASGW) with both light and heavy versions, the former of which is much like the Italian Marte:
The light version of FASGW is a 15-20-kg. weapon for helicopters. It is based on the Starstreak hypervelocity SAM from Thales, which is in service with the British Army. The target sets for FASGW-light are small boats, light armored areas and, possibly, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The heavy version aims to produce a 100-kg. weapon to replace the Royal Navy’s Sea Skua antiship helicopter missile and the French navy’s AS-15TT antiship weapon.
The well-proven Israeli Gabriel cruise missile family will soon be joined by its latest, most advanced version, the ‘Gabriel 5’:
The latest member of the Gabriel family of missiles, its improvements focus on use in littoral waters. It has an advanced active radar seeker, backed by a sophisticated weapon-control system to optimize effectiveness in target-congested battlespace. The Gabriel 5 is designed to defeat softkill and hardkill defenses with electronic counter-countermeasures.
Israel Military Industries new Delilah anti-ship missile also offers some unique capabilities:
Delilah’s imaging sensors, smart mission control and two-way data link enable human-in-the-loop control, which, with extended loitering, improves combat capabilities. One advantage in its antishipping role is the ability to strike a specific part of a target, for example, the command center, with precision, disabling it without destroying the vessel.
Getting back to the new Block IV Tomahawk, we’d like to close with some critical thoughts from Raymond Pritchett at the Information Dissemination blog:
Bill Sweetman’s article covers a number of anti-ship missile options that will be on display, but I have to say it is pretty sad in my opinion that US contractors have not evolved their anti-ship missile options beyond the Tomahawk or Harpoon. Is a VLS launched 200nm range anti-ship missile with effective terminal capabilities really too much to ask for in the 21st century? I’m not looking for a ramjet missile, but it would be nice if we were talking about a missile that was designed after the Carter administration.
Ouch! But it is a capability the USN has mostly ignored, relying instead on naval aircraft and helicopters for attacking surface ships.