Here’s another of those seemingly innocuous news items that contain a bit more information than intended.
ASEAN Military Defense Review website has a brief article on a SeaRAM test conducted by the USS Coronado, LCS-4, on 14-Aug.
's Combat Systems Team shot down a BQM-74E utilizing the
RIM-116 Blk1A/SeaRAM missile off Pt. Mugu. This test validates the LCS-2
Variant's Core self-defense capability and further demonstrates the ship's
effectiveness against high-end missile threats.” (1) Coronado
This prompts a couple of thoughts. First, given that the BQM-74E is a subsonic drone (around 515 kts at sea level according to the Northrup Grumman data sheet), this hardly demonstrates effectiveness against “high-end missile threats”. High end threats in my book are the large warhead, supersonic, terminal maneuvering missiles (SS-N-22, BrahMos, etc.) that everyone but the US Navy seems to have.
Further, demonstrating effectiveness would have to involve realistic conditions like poor weather, unknown location and approach time, and enemy electronic countermeasures as well as multiple, nearly simultaneous incoming targets. None of that was part of this staged test.
Thus, this test proved only that under perfect conditions a SeaRAM could shoot down a subsonic, non-maneuvering target drone. Such a test is better than no test but not by much.
The second, related thought, is why hasn’t the Navy tested its Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) against supersonic targets? Perhaps they have and I’ve missed it but given the fact that they loudly trumpet every other test, I’m reasonably sure they haven’t. Is it because the results are predictable and disappointing? Well, who cares? Isn’t that the point of testing – to find out what works and what doesn’t? If RAM is ineffective against supersonic threats, let’s find out and then fix it or build a better system. If RAM is effective, let’s hear about it!
Let me be clear about this. I have no information that RAM is ineffective against supersonic threats other than the lack of testing. I’m speculating but in a logical manner. I strongly suspect that this is like the Navy’s refusal to conduct shock testing on the LCS – they know it will fail and, therefore, why do it?
So, how did the test turn out? From Defense Media Network website,
“This test success marks a major milestone toward full operation and employment of the SeaRAM system on U.S. Navy ships,” said Rick Nelson, vice president of Naval Area and Mission Defense product line at Raytheon Missile Systems. “SeaRAM demonstrated that it is a vital weapon for defending navies against anti-ship cruise missiles, and provides warfighters with a capability found nowhere else.” (2)
“… capability found nowhere else”? Ahh, you want to dial the hyperbole down just a smidge, there, Rick? I think there are plenty of short range AAW missiles out there.
|BQM-74 Target Drone - A Poor Threat Surrogate|
This is the kind of testing that is so disappointing. A test that demonstrates almost nothing of combat relevance is passed off as some big achievement. As a result, we send our sailors in harm’s way with little knowledge of their ship’s realistic capabilities. This is how you lose battles and lives.
(1)ASEAN Military Defense Review, “Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) Conducts Live Fire Test of Guns and SeaRAM”, Maki Catama,
(2)Defense Media Review, “First Raytheon SeaRAM Missile Fired from USS Coronado (LCS 4)”, Chuck Oldham,
Sep 17, 2015,