Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LRASM and Targeting

Let’s follow up on the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) a bit, shall we?  For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that we now have a 500 nm, ship launched (VLS), high subsonic missile that doesn’t, yet, have complete and fully functional autonomy.  In other words, it’s a missile like all the rest of our missiles.  It requires a destination (target) and then it can use it’s own on-board sensors (short range radar and/or EO) for final guidance.  That’s exactly what ComNavOps suggested ought to be produced in the previous post as an interim product while the fantasy autonomy was being perfected.

So, we have a missile.  Somewhere out there we think there might be a surface target.  How do we find the target (the right target!) and generate a shooting solution? 

Well, the first possibility is the ship’s own radar, Aegis/AMDR.  Unfortunately, the detection range will be on the order of 50 nm (the Navy has declined to tell me the exact detection range in this scenario).

Another possibility is a carrier AEW Hawkeye.  Two problems here, though.  One is the range is still limited to probably around 150 -200 nm.  Yes, the claimed detection range of the APS-139/145 radar is 300+ nm but that’s for large airborne, non-stealthy targets.  A semi-stealthy ship (and every ship built today is semi-stealthy) in the “ground clutter” of the ocean’s surface is not going to be detected at anywhere near those ranges.  The second problem is that if we’re going to be dependent on a Hawkeye then that means that our LRASM is only effective as part of a carrier group.

Of course, we could always postulate that we extend the Hawkeye’s location out a couple hundred miles in the direction of the anticipated threat.  However, since we’re going to launch a missile, presumably we’re at war.  That means that the enemy will be busy doing pesky little things like shooting down Hawkeyes that stray away from the protection of the carrier group.  In fact, the reality is that the Hawkeye may actually operate somewhat behind the group for greater protection.  So, I guess that option is out. 

Satellites?  They don’t generate shooting solutions despite what popular belief might hold.

Submarines?  Possible, though that’s a very unreliable, hit and miss proposition complicated by the difficulty the sub would have transmitting targeting data without giving up its location.

The ship’s own helos?  Helos have relatively short ranged radars and extending their location carriers the same risk as the Hawkeye.  It’s just not realistic to send a helo a few hundred miles out to attempt targeting.

UAVs?  That’s a possibility.  I don’t think we have a surface ship launched UAV with the requisite range, sensors, and stealth but such a UAV could possibly be developed.

Passive sensing?  That’s a very real possibility but would involve triangulation of multiple sensor sources.  This is, at least partly, what I believe the Navy’s OUBOARD/COBLU system is designed to do.  The actual capabilities of the system are not public knowledge so I have no basis to comment further.

F-35?  Well, here’s an option that has some possibility.  A stealthy, survivable aircraft that can operate on its own and penetrate enemy air coverage and defenses would be just the ticket for this type of targeting challenge.  This may be a mission the F-35 could excel at.  Of course, as with the Hawkeye, this ties the LRASM to F-35A land bases or F-35C carriers and limits our ability to operate our surface ships offensively on their own.  This also assumes that the F-35 works as advertised which it does not, as yet.  Aside from stealth and flight issues, the F-35 apparently lacks a “stealth” means of communication to transmit targeting data, as we’ve discussed in previous posts (see, "Can Anyone Talk To The F-35?").

Hopefully, by now you’re getting the idea.  A weapon is only half the problem.  The other, and more important and more challenging, half is targeting (see, "Weapons Don't Matter!").  There’s no point having a 5,000 nm missile if you can’t reliably target beyond 50 miles.  [that’s why the Chinese “carrier killer” is a joke]  So, am I suggesting that we only design short range missiles and abandon the LRASM?  No!  I’m suggesting that we give equal thought to development of targeting capabilities and development of appropriate tactics that will enable long range targeting.

The astute among you will have noticed that I haven’t addressed target discrimination.  It’s not enough to simply detect a “blip” a few hundred miles out.  You also have to know whether that blip is friendly, neutral, or hostile.  Generally, that means getting the detecting platform and sensor even closer to the enemy – a difficult problem becomes even more difficult.

I’ve also not addressed the use of air launched LRASM.  That’s a separate topic with its own considerations.


  1. F-35s radar *might* be better, but since it's an active sensor and would have to use Link 16 to pass target data, it's little different than a Super Hornet. BAMS/MQ-4C could pass targeting info - arguably, that's what they for. EA-18 is developing passive targeting/engagement, especially when used in pairs, or maybe threes....

    1. BAMS would not be a survivable and, therefore, reliable surveillance asset in contested airspace. Ditto for Growlers. It would be a very gutsy commander who would risk three Growlers for a data point!

      The key point about Link 16 is that it's not "stealth" and its use would betray the user's location. This is the problem with the F-35. It has Link 16 but forfeits its stealth to use it.

    2. Non-stealthy datalinks are more problematic over hostile land, where the F-35 is at risk of immediate attack by surviving IADS. Over ocean, it isn't as much of a problem. There's a lot more empty ocean to work with.

      Aircraft like BAMS would require DCA to survive, but this is part of the plan.

    3. As the Chinese continue to develop their own Aegis-like, long range air defenses and, eventually, add carrier air power, the contested space around their surface groups will grow to hundreds of miles, making the open ocean just as dangerous. Unless the F-35 has a capability I'm unaware of, it will have to get relatively close to a target to detect, classify, and target. Link 16 use will negate that ability.

      DCA? Sorry, I should know it but I'm drawing a blank on that acronym?

    4. defensive counterair (DCA) is to protect friendly forces and vital interests from enemy air and missile attacks and is synonymous with air defense. DCA consists of active and passive air defense operations including all defensive measures designed to destroy attack- ing enemy air and missile threats or to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of such attacks should they escape destruction.

    5. If the Chinese are blasting multi-megawatt, AEGIS-level radar signals, the F-35 won't have to do much. Just tool around, out of range, long enough to get an ESM fix.

    6. The more likely scenario is the F-35 has to get close to a non-radiating target and then when it broadcasts its targeting data gets spotted and destroyed. We lose our "guidance" link and an expensive aircraft. Is the trade worth it? Perhaps.

      I also question the long term viability of the stealth characteristic of stealth aircraft. Hardly a day goes by when I don't read about more claims of sensor systems able to detect stealth aircraft. Discounting most of that as PR claims, I still see a pronounced trend towards countering aircraft stealth. Add in EO sensors that can provide long range detection via means other than radar and I'm quite skeptical that the F-35 will remain stealthy for very much of its lifespan. I'm absolutely sure the Chinese are working diligently on detecting and countering the F-35.

    7. B.Smitty, have you come across a CONOPS for BAMS involving DCA? I'd be fascinated to see that. Alternatively, do you have a concept of your own you'd care to share?

    8. There are lots of claims out there.

      Stealth inherent to an aircraft is largely fixed at the time of its construction. Sure you can apply new coatings, but their impact is marginal.

      So yes, the effectiveness of stealth baked into a given airframe will decrease over its lifespan vs newer and newer threats. However that doesn't negate its effectiveness against existing and near term threats. Many countries still rely on Vietnam-era SA-2 and SA-3 SAM systems. It also requires countries to develop and buy new counter-stealth systems.

      It's just another step in the measure vs counter-measure war.

    9. BAMS is no different than any other High Value Airborne Asset. Standard OCA/DCA doctrine applies.

    10. B.Smitty, thanks for the link although I have to say that document is a waste of space. It's mostly a compendium of definitions and a description of organizational relationships. It contains nothing of actual use or relevance. It's appropriate as a primer for the new recruit who's never heard of any of this but is not useful for much more.

      I did note with some amusement that the document doesn't even have a word for enemy control of the air. The lowest form of US air dominance that is recognized is "parity". That's outstanding! That's wishful thinking at its best.

      My problem with this type of document is not that it exists - there's nothing wrong with having an introductory level document that defines terms and vague goals - but that, all too often, this level of document serves as the endpoint in tactical and doctrinal thinking. How are we going to protect a BAMS platform? Oh, we'll just establish aerial dominance. No specifics. No tactics. Just a vague statement of intent being accepted as tactics.

      Now, the AF and Navy may well have specific CONOPS for BAMS that they simply, and understandably, aren't sharing publicly. I hope they do. I'd like to believe they do. However, from the Navy side of things, they've admitted they never had and still don't have a detailed and specific CONOPS for LCS, as one example. That doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence that anyone has though out a viable and detailed CONOPS for BAMS.

      Hmmmm ...... I wonder if the Chinese OCA/DCA starts with parity as the highest form of aerial control they can achieve and then describes worsening levels of control like "constrained" and "dominated" and "why are we even trying against the mighty USAF"? If our document is right, those are the only choices they have. You don't think they're so deluded as to believe they can establish aerial control of their own, do you?

    11. I doubt the AF and Navy have a specific CONOPs for defending BAMS. Like I said, they'll treat it as any other High Value Airborne Asset. We've spent decades devising plans to defend other types of HVAA.

      Flying outside or on the edge of enemy fighter range, flying OCA and DCA sorties backed by AEW, as well as distrupting the enemy's "kill chain" in other ways strike sorties are all components of a CONOPs.

      Here's an Air War College document for Air Dominance CONOPS vs China,

      It has more specific ideas.

  2. Take a look at Jon Solomon's three part series on ID,

    Also, take a look at his master's thesis, which deals with defeating the Chinese ocean surveillance system.

    Actually, everything I've read so far by Mr Solomon is top notch.

    Note: From what I've read, LRASM is a 230nm missile, not 500nm. It trades JASSM-ER's range for the seeker and other components.

    1. The article that I referenced in the previous post states 500 miles. Am I reading that wrong? Or, is that only for an air launched version and won't apply to a ship launched one?

    2. Thanks for the link. Good article. It's essentially (and coincidentally!) what I've written although he's greatly expanded the length and detail. Was there a particular aspect you wanted to draw my attention to?

    3. The article you linked stated JASSM-ER's range is 500nm, which is correct.

      From what I've read, the LRASM changes reduce its range back to, roughly, the original JASSM's range, or about 230nm.

    4. Re: The Solomon article.

      Nope, I just knew this topic was on your mind.

      Here's the link to his master's thesis,


    5. As I read the LRASM linked article, it reads 500 nm to me though as I reread it, it's admittedly not 100% explicit. Do you have a reference to LRASM being shorter ranged?

    6. If you have an Air Force Magazine subscription,

      "AirSea Battle Weapon?

      Lockheed Martin hopes to get on contract with the Navy in 2014 for a derivative of its Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and JASSM-Extended Range system called the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, according to Dick Tate, the company's program manager for the new weapon. Developed as a DARPA project, LRASM has "the same mold line" and thus about the same stealth as the JASSM-ER, but replaces some of that weapon's internal fuel with avionics that permit man-in-the-loop "multimode" terminal guidance, said Tate last week at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. The sensors are designed to give the weapon capability against moving sea targets or mobile land targets. The JASSM-ER can go more than 500 miles, but LRASM would have close to the baseline JASSM's range of more than 200 miles, said Tate. LRASM has a 1000-pound warhead and is meant for launch from aircraft like F/A-18E/Fs or B-1Bs, or from shipboard vertical launch system tubes with an ASROC rocket boosting it. Lockheed Martin said it successfully tested the system pushing through a VLS tube cover and the nose-mounted apertures were unaffected. The company also has conducted captive carriage flight testing of the LRASM sensor suite. The weapon would have about 85 percent commonality with JASSM-ER and would be built on the same production line in Alabama, according to the company. "

    7. B.Smitty, I hadn't seen that. Thanks. I'll tentatively accept a range of 200+ miles pending additional confirmation. Thanks for the heads up!

    8. This is late, but everything I've read about the 200+ nmi range is from the minimum DARPA requirement. The real range of the LRASM will likely be somewhere between the JASSM-ER and JASSM. LRASM will be using at least the more fuel efficient engine of the JASSM-ER but it is unknown how much of the JASSM-ER expanded fuel storage will be traded off for additional electronics.

      Also there is chatter about an LRASM-ER for at least the VLS version based off the additional work/study that was done as part of and after JASSM-ER which would of extended JASSM-ER range another 100-200 miles by using yet an even more fuel efficient engine. This LRASM-ER would also reduce the warhead size down below the 1000lb to the roughly 500lb range. The LRASM-ER would use the same electronics suites as LRASM and same exterior dimensions but would have a range of 800-1000 miles and would be able to serve a fully dual role as AShM and Tomahawk replacement.

      The LRASM-ER would be a later stage development of the LRASM and wouldn't impact initial LRASM deployment. The main advantage of the LRASM would be the complete replacement of the Tomahawk stores on ship with a dual role land and anti-ship missile providing significantly increased flexibility.

  3. The answer is that the US does not rely that much on AShM, the technology in the LRASM is not really ground beaking, soinds like a 'tweeked up' NSM.
    Remember, since the early 70ties during the cold war the soviet union has developed several types of supersonic AShM.
    For all that time the US only used the harpoon ( and its modifications) as its primary AShM ( not counting Tomahawks).
    And that was a time were money on development was not an issue.
    For one reason or another, the US does not see a need in having a big supersonic AShM.
    Can the US build a super fast AShM , judging by the SR-71 engine tech it was possible decades ago.. But for some reason the US does not put enough emphasis in that area.

    1. You raise a good question. I've long wondered why the Navy has shown no interest in a supersonic ASM. Even one of the two candidate LRASMs was supersonic, the LRASM-B, but the Navy opted to proceed with the subsonic -A version.

      I've long wondered why the Navy has had no serious interest in a large caliber gun.

      I've long wondered about many of the Navy's decisions!

      Good point!

    2. The only ground breaking aspect of the LRASM would be the autonomy and break from reliance on GPS/network/data links.

    3. The Navy has shown interest, but LRASM-B is a far cheaper option since it's based on the in-service JASSM-ER.

  4. There are several ways that the F-35 can pass data along without ever using Link-16 ore betraying its position.

    1. They can transmit via MADL to a F-35 that is out of the area, parked on the deck of a carrier, etc and that F-35 can pass it along via Link-16. They have already demonstrated this (parked F-35 acting as a node).

    2. SATCOMM after Block4

    3. MADL receivers embedded in the fleet in BAMS, AWACS, E-2D, on board a ship, etc.

    4. Dedicated "5th to 4th" receivers in other "out of harm's way" aircraft.

    1. Spudman, good comment. A parked F-35 would still have to transmit the data to the ship, presumably via Link 16. Do you know that there is a MADL to Link 16 conversion capability? There may be but I've not read of such a thing.

      MADL equipment is not embedded in any of those platforms, currently, as far as I know, nor are there any concrete plans or budget to do so. Do you info indicating otherwise?

      Do you know of an actual 5th to 4th converter? Even the F-22 and F-35 can't talk to each other.

      Also, even if all this existed and worked, it brings us back to the point in the post about the missiles utility being linked exclusively to carrier air which, if it's available, raises the legitimate question why we need the missile (the ship launched version, at least). I know, we have to replace Harpoon regardless but the theoretical question is valid. We need a means of long distance targeting that is independent of carrier air in order to maximize the LRASM's capabilities.

    2. Here is the path (all automatic):
      1. The sensing F-35 transmits it's sensor tracks to the F-35 sitting on the deck using MADL
      2. The parked F-35 fuses that data into it's own tactical picture of the battlespace
      3. The parked F-35 transmits to the world via Link-16.

      Remember that once a piece of info is "fused" into the F-35's avionics suite, it's just part of the whole and can be share using any normal comm process. No MADL to Link-16 converter needed.


    4. Here is a good graphic that shows a group of F-35s in a high threat area passing info to a F-35 that is outside the threat area via MADL. That outside F-35 then passes the info along via MADL and Link-16.

      This was a designed part of MADL as it's spec is for 25 terminals to be part of one "network'. Think 6 flights of 4 planes and one extra to act as a Gateway to the rest of the network.

    5. OK, that sounds fine in theory. We'll see whether it works. I note that we're still trying to get the F-35's sensor data to the pilot's helmet so I'll reserve judgement on getting the targeting data through multiple steps and systems successfully.

      Again, that brings us back to the "tied-to-the-carrier" issue.

      Regarding all the magical things the F-35 will do and all the magical capabilities it will bring to the fleet, does anyone remember the magical things the LCS would do? Of course, none of that panned out. Will the F-35? We'll have to wait and see but I'm not counting too heavily on it. Given the two decades of development, so far, realistically, if half the claimed F-35 capabilities actually come to fruition, I'll call it a success!

    6. Does anyone know what the MADL transmit range is?

    7. The issue is not "getting info to the helmet" but stabilizing the image when dealing with streaming EODAS images to the helmet. All reports and indications about the new Gen3 version of the helmet says that they got it working.

      On the 5th to 4th, there are several programs in the works with flying hardware so it's coming along fine.

      On the "Multiple Steps", that is how the entire MADL system works. It's a giant Daisy Chain where one F-35 shares his data to a buddy, and that buddy fuses the info and shares his entire picture of the battelfield with another buddy, and so on, and so on. Each F-35 only talks to two other F-35s, the one upstream and the one downstream. The network is self-healing to compensate for comms interruptions.

      No public info is available about the MADL range, but it has been reported to have exceeded the spec by several times.
      Northrop Grumman Information Systems Defense Systems division vice president and general manager Mike Twyman said the MADL performed reliably and displayed an excellent range at multiples of required specifications, while demonstrating ability to connect fifth-generation fighters during flight tests.

    8. MADL is relatively short ranged (longer than IFL but shorter than Link-16) hence an effort is underway to develop a different LPI data link. A MADL "daisy chain" network to pass targeting data over long ranges is vulnerable to a single node failure - either a hardware failure, or simply an aircraft out of position. Plus, is it a good use of multiple strike assets relegated to performing datalink chores? Sitcom for later block F-35 assumes that a near peer adversary hasn't jammed or destroyed nearby satellites. Mounting MADL equipment in other platforms is not simply a plug and play procedure. It is not installed in the new MQ-4Cs, P-8s, or E-2Ds. There are some specialized Gulfstreams that have been built with BACN, an airborne gateway that connects disparate communications technologies, and podded solutions have been proposed. But again, it's the relative short range of MADL that is the real issue.

  5. ComNav, what about using satellite guidance ? if some random kid can control a UAV and kill people from the other side of the world, surely some sailor can use the same satellite technology to guide a missile into designated target ? im sure this will work fine, unless you got enemy that can think and dont hack the missile and turned it toward your ship, like what the clever Iranian did to the super stealthy wraith drone..

    1. "b", in a war with a peer, the assumption is that satellites will be early casualties and there won't be many functioning satellites left and any that remain will have far more important tasks than guiding an individual missile or UAV.

  6. There are rumours that F35 will talk stealthy to T45 and Merlin Crowsnest ( Vigilance Pod AWE ).
    Theoretically you need a suitably advanced AESA and the right software. The Vigilance Pod was supposed to effectively be a podded F35 Radar and back end. Although this now is uncertain, sadly.
    2 strapped to either side of any Merlin helo with a slide in Pallet for the back end processor is supposed to give any ship instant 360 AEW with F35 comms and EW capabilities, in an 8 hour or less swap out. Testing was supposed to be this year, but I have heard nothing.
    On the topic of LRASM, I think the idea is that it is already semi-autonomous, in that you load a target profile and a rough direction and set it going. “LRASM will be capable of conducting autonomous targeting, relying on on-board targeting systems to independently acquire the target without the presence of prior, precision intelligence” I was under the impression it is using SAR matching to, let’s call it, “VISUALLY” ( in RF terms ) identify a target from a cluttered environment.
    To this end, I think the theory is, something as simple as a scan eagle can send back a video for an operator to identify a class and a rough direction, and bang, off we go.
    { This assumes we have a SAR profile for the class. }
    Testing claims that they have hit a target described this way, and more importantly NOT hit 3 other targets in the area.
    Its all quite sci-fi though isnt it ? Rather bleeding edge ?
    Brimstone does apparently do something similar when 12 missiles simultaneously attack a column ( of more than 12 ), they will pick out priority targets or blow itself up if none exists.
    If all this is true ( and there seem very little way to verify ) tech is moving on pretty fast.

    1. Ben, you're correct that the goal of the LRASM program is to produce an autonomous missile. However, you undoubtedly noted the first paragraph of the post that stated that the topic was targeting for a non-autonomous version of the missile which would be an early, interim version as I suggested in the previous post. The reason I opted to limit the discussion this way was because the ultimate autonomous capability is a long ways off, if ever, and it would be nice to have a useful, functioning, interim version of the missile. However, such a version would require better targeting - hence, the purpose of the post.

  7. CNO,

    you bring up very good points. And even with the extreme range of the LRASM, its not very usable until it gets very smart.

    But, I wonder how the enemy looks at it. I mean, from what I've read the Sunburn's have a range of ~70 miles; Brahmos of ~180 miles, the Shipwrecks have a range of ~380 miles (!)... so how on earth were they planning on targeting us if they have the same sensor limit? Yes, they can use aircraft but we have those too and still have the ability to attack the launch craft. Further, if we have platforms launching from around a CVBG they can use the Hawkeye to help. There aren't many other Navy's around that have that option. So in order to launch their stuff, at least from a surface ship, they have to get damned close to us.

    Sure, they can launch at longer ranges but they face the same issue we do no matter how smart the missile.

    I guess I think about how these missiles would be used. In the blue water a submarine is the best platform for any of these missiles, IMHO, because it has a chance to sneak within confirmed sensor range. For our surface fleet, I still think we should have them, but then its a situation where if we don't have air superiority or a CVN around, we each have missiles that have the range to hit each other and we each have the same sensor limitations. So if things get ugly there and both ships launch our ship will likely get hit first, but hopefully theres will right afterward (assuming that LRASM is really survivable in the terminal phase, something I am not ready to just assume).

    Closer to the littorals or in an A2/D2 environment it will depend on the situation. If its in the straits of Taiwan Taiwan has her own AShM's, first, and second, if we are looking at stopping an amphibious invasion we explain to the rest of the world that the Taiwan straits are closed to traffic because we are going be lobbing a truck load of missiles into the area. There LRASM can rely on maybe land based sensors in a non autonomous mode. In the future we can launch at extreme range and let it go autonomous. It allows the CVBG to use the range of the SuperHornet and the range of the missile to stand off yet still pose a real threat to any 'phibs coming in.

    I guess where I'm going with all this is that if we have a missile that can get past a ships defenses, we will have the upper hand in any engagement I can think of, despite the impressive speed and range of other nations missiles. I'd prefer a supersonic AShM, but I see the arguments for subsonic ones.
    I think the problem we have right now is that I don't see Harpoon as being survivable vs. the current ship defenses, so they shoot and we shoot and their missiles have a real chance of hitting and ours get shot down.

    Now I'm not taking into account our woeful ASW state, that negates alot of our advantages, and has to be improved. But that is fixable without looking toward magic bullets in technology.

    1. Jim, the old Soviet tactics involved the use of Bears in the targeting role and, supposedly, the use of designated targeting missiles that would detect targets and link to the warhead missiles - an early form of autonomy. To what degree that was true and to what degree it was functional, I don't know.

      If you haven't, you might read Clancy's "Red Storm Rising". Though fiction, it offers some good descriptions of exactly the kinds of scenarios you're describing - plus it's just a good read!

    2. Take a look at Jon Solomon's master's thesis that I posted above. He describes the history of the Soviet ocean surveillance system as well as the known state of the Chinese system.


    3. I've read it. It's a good background paper that offers some useful perspective on the overall AAW issue. He stresses the EW approach just as I have in various posts. I note that he also makes passing acknowledgement of the effectiveness of SSGNs and highlights the need for aggressive self-imposed ECM training. All in all, a very nice paper.

      Again, was there a particular aspect you wanted to draw my attention to?

    4. Mostly pointing out to Jim how the Soviets and Chinese planned/plan to target ships at sea.

  8. What He said 
    The autonomy we are talking about is not that much more advanced from what a Tomahawk has been doing for decades, a pictorial match to confirm target. ( I’m sure that is playing it down a whole load )
    USSR equivalent were obviously designed to be network centric even way back when, and directed by AWACS. But lets face it I doubt they worried to much if one or two missiles accidentally sunk an oil tanker. That’s why they were designed to be launched in saturation attacks and supposedly divide up the targets between them.
    CNO I like your UAV idea, I think you and I are very much on the same page with the need for a capable long range UAV launchable in groups to create a sensor perimeter round a ship. These need to be stealthy ( i.e preferable small and plastic ) long endurance and cheap ( read numerous ). Most importantly the need to be launched and recovered from a destroyer type vessel for the ships autonomy. I’m seriously thinking scale up a scan eagle as the USMC are trying to do.
    The difficult bit is an AESA ( and the power requirement to run it ), but this is critical for stealth and point to point agile communications as much as using it for a radar.
    Then as you say you can have a “dumb” LRASM guided via mid course update \ datalink.
    Its moving some of the expense to the UAV and reducing the technology requirement for AI to miniature AESA and processing. Given AESA is basically 100’s of very small radars glued together, is this more possible? Hmmmm I would think maybe yes.
    Getting a bit Fantasy Fleet maybe ? But I do think it’s the way Naval UAV’s have to go.
    Selex are going some interesting stuff. This Pico SAR radar is under 10Kg with a modest power requirement.,d.ZGU

    1. Anon, that's a fascinating link to the mini-radar. I wasn't aware of it. I note the short (10 mile or so) range of the radar so I'm not sure what the practical application would be but it certainly demonstrates the trend towards significant capability in smaller packages. Any thoughts on application?

      I ask because EO sensors are also advancing. Is it better to have a broadcasting radar with a range of 10 miles or an EO sensor with the same range but which is passive and doesn't broadcast its presence?

      Any thoughts?

    2. EO are much more vulnerable to weather conditions.

  9. Google putting resources into object recognition, may be needed for their automatic self drive system for cars.Even smart algorithms may not pick everything if partly obscured. They are using a new detection system based on a neural network that quickly refine the criteria without a lot of computer power so as to identify more objects and make better guesses in confused scenes. You can easily see this applied to target discrimination in long range guidance for missiles.

    1. Nick, you're right. I can see the application to missile autonomy. There is, of course, a small difference. It's one thing to allow a vehicle to attempt to navigate on its own. It's another to allow a machine to kill on its own (shades of Terminator!).

      There are some ethics questions, here. Is the mere ability to do something sufficient justification to do it? I don't have a clear cut answer but you indirectly raise a challenging question.

      Do you have any thoughts on this? Where, if anywhere, do we draw the line on autonomous killing?

    2. You have raised a big question of ethic's which I had not considered being narrowly focused the technical aspects of successfully targeting a missile by a 'robot'.
      Governments/Military are usually driven by expediency and nationalist fever that if it will be of advantage you must have it even though as in the CIA UAV attacks in Afghanistan / Pakistan many non- combatants civilians were killed.
      One of the many counter points and very valid one is that once the technology is delevoped you cannot suppress it and it will come into world wide use as with the atom/nuclear bomb.

    3. Nick, I would suggest that the world has suppressed nuclear weapons at least to some extent. The world has condemned nuclear weapons and attempted to limit their proliferation. Most countries have vowed not to initiate first use of nuclear weapons. One can certainly argue about the degree of success of nuclear control but the attempt has been made.

      Is there a difference between potentially killing hundreds of thousands (nuclear) versus merely hundreds (autonomous anti-ship missiles)? Are ethics a function of scale?

      I note that you also side-stepped offering your personal view of the ethics of autonomous missiles. Do you have an opinion that you'd care to share?

    4. Autonomy in the context of LRASM is likely rather limited. It undoubtedly will just search a preplanned area for ships matching its target signature database.

      This is actually better than what we have now. Harpoon, Exocet and so on will just search a preplanned area for anything resembling a ship. This includes stray fishing trawlers, passenger ferries, cargo ships, whatever.

      You aren't just going to fire a LRASM in their general direction and tell it to go hunt for the bad guys.

    5. CNO in the overall scheme of things more concerned about nuclear weapons than robot guided AShMissiles .

      You have Putin a fervent nationalist leader bought up in the Soviet system and in effect a dictator with no checks and balances on his power under tremendous pressure as Russian economy tanking (as it did previously causing the Soviet Union to impload) due collapse in the oil prices and blaming the West for the economic ills due to sanctions. He would not be the first dictator whose mindset decides that to start a war would be the only way to 'correct' matters.
      The Israelis would not be backward in coming forward in launching nuclear weapons if they perceived even a hint that Iran had been successful in developing the bomb.
      Pakistan is an unstable country, always the possibility that it could fall under the control of the muslim fanatics, talk of their scientists helping the Saudis develop their own bomb to counter Iran.
      India looks relatively stable but you can not bet on them if Pakistan self imploded and then there is always China throwing its weight around on the border with India, which has flared up recently, besides what China is doing in the South China sea..
      So I am much less sanguine in that the world has suppressed nuclear weapons.