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Boosting Corvette Firepower

May 17, 2009
NLOS-LS (Netfires)

NLOS-LS (Netfires)

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-classneed 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.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2013 4:29 am

    Thanks , I have recently been searching for info
    approximately this subject for a long time and yours
    is the greatest I have came upon so far. But, what concerning
    the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the supply?

  2. May 4, 2013 7:53 pm

    My partner and I stumbled over here by a different web page
    and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to exploring your web page again.

  3. Distiller permalink
    May 18, 2009 1:42 am

    Starstreak and RBS70 both use line-of-sight guidance and fly a lag pursuit profile. That doesn’t really work well together with vertical launch. Beam acquisition would take much too long, if possible at all. And you would also need a longer booster capable of a rapid tip-over maneuver right after leaving the tube. *Plus* you’d need a laser designator in one of the CLU tubes. The idea of NetFires is that nothing of real value is left after the missiles are gone (though sending someone later to pick up the electronics pack is a good idea).

    The CLU is networked and aware of its GPS geo-location, meaning a fire-and-forget infrared guided missile could use lock-on-after-launch technique and fly an energy efficient course by telling the missile the target data. Best missile for the job would probably be LFK NG of the future German SysFla, since that missile is already built for vertical launch and the tip-over maneuver.

  4. May 17, 2009 4:41 pm

    No mike they are changing – the best CIWS, the cheapest and often most voluable fire support. They were always going to change, the weapons of war often do, but they also stay the same – how many for example keep saying that the Bayonet is redudent; I have friends who have served several of the recent conflicts all of whom claim to have been involved in at least two if not more attacks where they were used.

    yours sincerly


  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 17, 2009 2:52 pm

    The possibilities are endless with VLS. The beauty of precision weapons is, because you are mostly assured of “one shot, one hit”, you can carry less salvos, drastically reducing your logistical chain. maybe the old gunpowder weapons aren’t done yet, but the end is in sight.

  6. May 17, 2009 1:24 pm

    I had this in the back my head, there is rumoured to be a VLS version of this availble,

    its module could be made to fit? – it is actually smaller

    or this

    or this

    or could we modify the launcher so that the smaller cell PAM/LAM can be put in, but also this could be loaded

    or with minor modifications to the missile (retracting flaps, and a slightly blunter nose), we could use the best and most proven Short range missiles,

    what do you think?

    yours sincerly


  7. Distiller permalink
    May 17, 2009 1:01 pm

    The CLU is not quite high enough. The typical MANPADS is around 6ft long, whereas PAM/LAM is 5ft high, and the CLU something like 175cm. Cell diameter and weight limit would be ok, though.

  8. May 17, 2009 11:51 am

    also does anyone know if anything else could fit in the launcher, for example could the modules be changed for a SAM of some kind?

    yours sincerly


  9. May 17, 2009 11:46 am

    I would just like to say, I think the Americans have been spending way to much time with the Germans – they have picked up their love of giving things anagrams instead of names, what is wrong with calling something pocket rocket why give it the name NLOS-LS – its just so boring!

    yours sincerly


  10. Distiller permalink
    May 17, 2009 10:02 am

    Link if a couple of data and thoughts about how NetFires fits in.

    In the littoral environment it would be a very useful NFS asset for commando actions.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 17, 2009 8:15 am

    Alex, I placed several inks within the post which would be a start. here is the official US Government search engine where you can also begin. Type in NLOS-LS, because just NLOS will get you the non-line of sight cannon, which is of course different. Global Security is very detailed.

  12. May 17, 2009 7:17 am


    how would I find out more about this system? i.e. specific requirements vis-a-vie space, stability, and power supplies

    I am writing a 4000word report about corvettes at the moment and I want to see how much I should use for this system.

    yours sincerly



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