Thursday, February 4, 2016

Standard Missile Has New Anti-Ship Capability

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter just unveiled a secret new capability for the Standard missile, SM-6 – it now has an anti-surface ship mode.  As reported by Defense.Gov website,  SecDef revealed the secret to a group of sailors for the first time.

“…Carter said the sailors were the first to learn about a powerful new capability, secretly tested just last month, that builds on the existing SM-6 missile.

“You know the SM-6,” Carter said. “You launch it from surface ships. It's a fantastic surface-to-air weapon, highly maneuverable aerodynamically, and can stop incoming ballistic and cruise missiles … in the atmosphere at a very low altitude.”

He said the SM-6, already one of the department’s most modern and capable munitions, will be modified so that in addition to providing missile defense it also can target enemy ships at sea at extended ranges.

“This is a new anti-ship mode … that can shoot down airborne threats, and now [the same missile] can attack and destroy a ship at long range,” Carter said, calling it a potent new surface warfare capability.” (1)


Wow!!!  A “new anti-ship mode” and a “potent new surface warfare capability”?  Using a surface to air missile as an anti-ship missile?  This could change naval warfare!  I’ve never heard of anything this revolutionary since the April 1988 Praying Mantis operation in which the USS Wainwright and USS Simpson launched several Standard missiles at the Iranian Combattante fast attack vessel, the Joshan, and disabled it.  Ah …  …  …  wait a minute.  Standard missiles had an anti-surface ship mode back in 1988?  Did someone forget to tell the SecDef that this is not new technology?

The Navy is now claiming that old, existing technology is some kind of amazing breakthrough?  SecDef doesn’t know the basic capabilities of the Navy and no one in the Navy thought to tell him that this was technology the Navy has had for decades?  This is just embarrassing.  Worse, this is demonstrating incompetence.  SecDef is making decisions about the future of the military’s force structure and doesn’t even know the basic capabilities of what we have? 

Every time I think Navy leadership has hit rock bottom, they dig a little deeper and lower the bar a little further.




31 comments:

  1. Well, if the SecDef thinking that using Standard missiles as an anti-ship weapon is a new idea gets us more SM-6s, then whats the harm?

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  2. To be fair, he's doing a bang up job integrating women into frontline combat units.

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  3. A $5 million missile with a 20lbs warhead is a lot for the little damage it may cause a ship.

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    1. Try a 200lb blast/frag warhead hitting straight at Mach 3+. You might not sink the ship but you'll give it something to worry about. At the very least you can get mission kills by wrecking mounts, radars, etc.

      And with the SM-6 you get 100+ mile range with inflight updates from E-2's, helicopters, etc. Bet they'll eventually have the radar be imaging at some point.

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    2. Benjamin OliverFebruary 5, 2016 at 1:13 AM

      This isn't really a new capability. And in practice AA missiles used for anti ship haven't been massively effective.

      Waves really mess up your radar picture unless you have the right kind of radar and software, so in the SM2 example several missed. ( expensive miss at 5 million a copy in this case )

      And blast fragmentation with a proximity fuse is designed to sent teeny tiny shards flying out when the missile gets even close to a target. That kind of distributed effect will barely scorch a serious hull assuming you get past a ships considerable defences.

      Anti ship missiles tend to have shaped charge \ directed blast warheads to cut through a hull.

      Then we have the targeting issue for an over the horizon missile.

      Its a very nice "emergency" feature, and you kinda getting it for free, so why not.

      And the kinetic effects on a small to medium craft cant be denied.

      But I wouldnt stand down the harpoon just yet.

      Beno

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    3. Not sure if the warhead is the same for the SM2 and SM6

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    5. "A delay mode would not be expensive to add."

      An IR seeker would also be useful and wouldn't add much cost.

      I also think some enhanced counter-ECM capabilities would help maximize its anti-ship usefulness. This is existing technology so it shouldn't add much cost.

      If we are going to use this as an anti-ship missile then it clearly needs a terminal maneuvering capability. Again, this is know technology and shouldn't add much cost.

      Of course, to increase the odds of getting through to the target, a slight redesign of the missile body to add some stealth shaping would be cheap.

      Some imaging capability, both for targeting and BDA, would be well worth any slight additional cost.

      ......... And this is how a $5M missile becomes a $50M missile.

      You know, if we're going to make the missile that expensive, maybe we should give it a return/recovery capability in case it doesn't find a target ......

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    6. I stand corrected, that is a big warhead, I was think of the AMRAAM's 20lbs warhead. But faster is not better. At Mach a low flying missile only has 20 seconds to acquire a target due the curvature of the earth. If you go Mach 3.5, that gives the missile just 6 seconds, and it can't turn quickly at that speed. So nearly all will miss, and any hit would have to be lucky, unless an aircraft overhead can help guide them with longer range radar.

      And of course there is a huge problem with launching anti air and anti ship missiles toward an enemy where friendly aircraft are operating.

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    7. speaking of warhead sizes, can the LASM warhead be fitted to the SM-6. This warhead was design to produce bigger holes than the regular Standard missile warhead,

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    9. SM-6 could benefit from all kinds of capabilities that various systems have. All would add cost. This is a $5M missile, currently. The incessant urge by the military (and some of us) to add capabilities is what makes systems unaffordable and overdue.

      SM-6 does not have IR guidance, to the best of my knowledge. It could be added for a cost.

      SM-6 does not have terminal maneuver capability, to the best of my knowledge. It could be added for a cost.

      I'll repeat. This is how a $5M missile becomes a $50M missile.

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    10. @ ComNavOps- I believe the only thing being added to SM-6s are GPS, but that is for land attack purposes.

      @ Anonymous- We don't know yet the flight profile for anti-ship for the SM-6, but it is likely to be top attack. Correct me if I am wrong, but don't most sea skimming missiles have laser or radar altimeters to avoid taking a swim? I don't the SM-6 has or will ever have one of those.

      @ G Lof- The AShM mode of the SM-6 is supposed to be just a added capability, not a replacement for dedicated AShM. So, my guess would be yes, they probably could, but they won't.

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    11. "SM-6 in anti-surface mode won't be flying a sea skimming profile. It will likely be flying at high altitudes and diving on targets."

      Good speculation. Logical and reasonable. I love that kind of reasoned analysis from readers.

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    12. "... laser or radar altimeters to avoid taking a swim? I don't the SM-6 has or will ever have one of those."

      A quite logical supposition. I love that kind of reader contribution.

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  4. the iranian frigate was hit by multiple missiles and bombs and it is still floating albeit dead on water... lack of warhead on the standard missiles ?

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    1. You don't have to sink something to mission kill it. Just look at the Bismarck.

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  5. I mean I think it comes to something when you have to advertise your new super spangly ABM AAM as a surface attack weapon ?

    One hopes that this isn't saying its the best feature, because on paper SM6 is the bollox.

    Personally I think LRASM is the way to go, but I'm still looking sideways at that right now due to complexity and the fact its suffering from the slight of hand feature trim we tend to associate with LCS right now.

    [ Type 26 is fitted with Mk41 and no Harpoon ( instead of the predicted and current European equivalent VLS ) which suggests to me the RN is almost certainly going to take LRASM. ]

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    1. This isn't meant to replace dedicated AShM, it's adding capability and options for commanders.

      The dedicated AShM contest for surface warships starts next year I believe.

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  6. For radar imaging you really need sea skimming for the background contrast. Diving down means much more difficult imaging to contrast the ship with sea. IR would be better, or radar seeker like HARM. Years ago I promoted the idea of RASM, radar attack standard missile, for shore targets too!

    And what about the torpedo bomber idea? Similar to ASROC, a missile could splash a self-guided torpedo near a ship. Very difficult to counter.

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    1. "Similar to ASROC, a missile could splash a self-guided torpedo near a ship. Very difficult to counter."

      Fascinating idea. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

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  7. The predecessors of the SM-1/2 have always had a secondary anti-ship capability. The SM-1 was a derivative of the 3T (Tartar, Terrier, Talos) series, which could engage ships out to horizon range. What's new is that the SM-6 uses active radar homing and has a much longer range than the SM-1 or SM-2, so it can engage targets at much greater distances.

    I saw an old documentary on the USS Boston (CAG-1), which was the worlds first missile cruiser. She was a Baltimore class CA whose aft 5" and 8" turrets were replaced with two Terrier launchers. The documentary, which was made back in the 1956, noted that the Terrier could be used against both ships and aircraft.

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    1. It's interesting, isn't it, how we're so proud of ourselves for re-inventing old technology?

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    3. This article is in National Interest about the SM6...
      http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/sinking-enemy-warships-the-us-navys-fiery-new-weapon-15132
      Targeting could come from the E2D Hawkeye.

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  8. I have wondered whether or not this is supposed to give the illusion that something big is happening.

    Maybe they see public relations as their primary exercise these days?

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  9. Sorry to digress, but an excellent report on the V-22 crash in Hawaii appeared at military.com

    http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/29/billows-of-dust-a-sudden-pop-and-an-osprey-falls-from-the-sky.html

    It must have caused screams because it was removed from their main webpage within a couple hours. Might be worth a discussion post.

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    1. Thanks for the link and suggestion. See the next post. I'd love to give you credit other than as anonymous if you'd care to give a username - could be an informal one in your comment text rather than having to create a new sign-in which we all hate.

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  10. I find this a bit disturbing. Although I cant open the full article ;

    http://aviationweek.com/awindefense/carter-releases-budget-details-talks-antiship-sm-6

    It suggests they are now looking for additional funding for SM6 ASM.

    I cant think that this is a good idea if its diverting funds from so many other much needed projects including "proper" ASM's

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    1. I can't see the full article, either, so I'm not defending this but, in concept, I'm okay with spending a "little" now to gain an immediate partial capability while we develop a longer term, better solution. So, if that's what's happening here then I'm good with it. If not, I'm not.

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