Boosting Corvette Firepower
We continue to advocate the small missile corvette as a future replacement for heavy destroyers which grow ever larger in size with each decade, and ever more in price. Now this article concerning the Netfires “Rockets-in-a-box” gives us hope that the small ships are a more than adequate solution for shrinking budgets and declining force levels. First James Hasik explains what’s wrong with the Navy’s Big Ships for fire support:
In the past two years, the Navy has suffered two serious setbacks to its plans to reinvigorate naval surface fire support (NSFS). The Zumwalt-class destroyers are still each intended to carry two of BAE Systems’ impressive 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGSs) with 600 of BAE and Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Land-Attack Projectiles (LRLAPs), but the program is being cut short at two or three ships. Most of the 127 mm guns on Arleigh Burke and Ticonderoga-class ships were supposed to get Raytheon’s Extended-Range Guided Munitions (ERGMs)—conceivably hundreds each for the NSFS mission—but that program was canceled last year after repeated failures in testing.
Failure seems to be the norm for most of shipbuilding in the US these days, and as we have lamented often enough, a back to basics approach would be the answer such as building warships smaller. The rocket-armed corvette is well prepared for its role in this newer fleet, and Hasik details the weapon to make it all work:
Rockets-in-a-box is the colloquial name for this missile system from Netfires LLC, a joint venture of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The US Army prefers the term Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), which says a lot about the Army’s sense of style. Specifically, if you haven’t been following the program, the Netfires is a box of fifteen missiles with integrated GPS, inertial, and infrared precision guidance. Each missile packs the effect of a 155 mm artillery shell, and flies at least as far: 40 kilometers or more, depending on conditions (and which source one is checking).
In other words, this compact new device ready for army service and planned for the new LCS mimics the firepower of artillery and could even replace it. We have long predicted that unguided artillery was in its last days due to the increase use of guided shells, missiles, and rockets. Now it seems this may come to pass.
The missile boxes can be lifted from ships and placed ashore once a beachhead has been secured, simultaneously keeping the fleet from harm’s way and extending the range of missile batteries. The modularity of the system is simply brilliant, and has implications well beyond the system itself. Consider that there are basically three reasons for building bigger ships: to cost-effectively produce longer range, better seakeeping, or greater payload. The range and seakeeping requirements of most navies are met by ships the size of large corvettes or small frigates. Surface combatants not meant to carry area air defense systems—and not meant for hybrid roles like that of the Danish Absalon-class—need not be much larger than a large corvette to accomplish the wide range of missions for which they are intended. This is rather borne out in the patterns of naval procurement worldwide: many fleets are converging on this size as appropriate for most ships. The Netfires boxes, after all, won’t be specific to LCSs, but could be deployed on any ship with a helicopter flight deck, or just enough flat topside space for the installation.
Check out this on Netfires from Future Weapons, which puts everything in perspective. The Army’s problems of moving vehicles with large size and heavy weight is much like the Navy’s difficulties, and can be solved with precision technology.