HMAS Perth is an Anzac class (MEKO 200 variant) frigate with an 8-cell Mk41 VLS, single 5” gun, and two triple torpedo launchers. Sensors include the CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT S and X band radars. Wiki has a good description of the ship.
To be sure, the tests were still highly scripted, staged events with all the attendant unreality imposed by US Navy safety regulations. Consider the following quotes extracted from Robert Macklin's report describing the Anzac program and the live fire testing that was conducted.
Now the targets being fired at Perth included two supersonic Coyote missiles—each costing $4 million—which would come screaming out of the blue, cutting a path across Perth’s station as the combined radar and combat system on board responded with the ship’s own relatively slow ESSMs in the hope of intercepting the incoming target. In addition, Perth would track at least seven subsonic missiles, some of which would be in combination with supersonics. (1)
This statement is a bit misleading as it suggests that Perth faced seven or more missiles, some of which were supersonic, at the same time. That would be a major challenge, indeed! The reality, as best I can tell, is that the Perth faced a total of seven missiles over four or so separate tests (referred to in the quotes as “profiles”). There is a YouTube video that shows three missiles being fired from Perth simultaneously so three seems to be the maximum number of simultaneous threats faced in the exercise.
As indicated in the next quote, a subsonic and a supersonic were paired in a single test. Whether the two missile types appeared in the engagement window at the same time or whether they arrived separately is not clear.
First up, he says, they did the seven subsonics but on occasion they were mixed with supersonic interference. The test, he says, ‘was designed so you could potentially be attracted to the subsonic target at the expense of the supersonic. And in fact I can assure you each of them was a success—in fact probably more successful than we thought possible.’ (1)
Note is made of the difficulty of intercepting a crossing missile as opposed to a head-on target. The write up suggests that Perth did test a crossing missile and, if this was the case, this is a degree of difficulty and reality that the US does not test.
The ESSM missile has traditionally been a point defence system designed for a weapon coming in directly, which is easy [to take out]. But once it starts crossing—heading for a high‑value unit, especially if it’s doing mach 3—then it becomes exponentially more difficult.
We’d simulate being a short distance from a high‑value unit on its quarter, so when we’d take out the incoming supersonic mach 3 missile with the ESSM, they’d never seen it done before. (1)
If the US Navy had never seen a supersonic missile being intercepted by an ESSM before (referring to a crossing missile?), that speaks volumes about the lack of realistic testing by the Navy.
On one occasion—I think in profile three—we actually lost the target momentarily—and that happens sometimes in the fog of war—and when it came up again a young operator, a sailor who was literally in front of me in the Operations Room—saw it and intuitively pressed a ‘hostile’ and a missile went and took it out at the minimum engagement range. So at the last moment we were able to save the [high‑value unit]. (1)
The next quote illustrates the point that we’ve made repeatedly and that is that the engagement window against a supersonic threat is very short.
They saved the last two profiles for the supersonic Coyotes. The first one, Goddard says, came at them skimming at its minimum safe height. ‘You probably have 10 to 11 seconds to react, and as soon as you’ve made it “hostile” the system just automatically does it and of course it’s just “hands off.”’
In fact, when that first Coyote came at them the system fired two missiles. The first smashed into the target and the second took out the debris. ‘The Americans said “We’ve never seen that. You’ve actually taken out the target and we thought the second missile would just disappear. But all of a sudden it turned and actually took out the debris on the way through.”’ (1)
In the next quote, note the reference to a ‘ghost’ radar image and the resultant wasted defensive missiles. We recently noted a ‘ghost’ image of sorts being part of the reason why a US Aegis cruiser was hit by an out of control drone. Also, in terms of overall system efficiency and performance, the unintended and unnecessary expenditure of extra defensive missiles is a problem. To be fair, if the main target(s) is destroyed, no Captain is going to begrudge a few wasted missiles.
On the second attack, only one ESSM was needed—the Coyote was pulverised. However, a ‘ghost’ image had appeared briefly on the screen and Lee Goddard actually fired three ESSMs, two of which weren’t needed. ‘So it was all very positive,’ he says. (1)
In summary, Perth’s testing was far more extensive and realistic than anything I’ve read about the US Navy conducting. Is this enough? Not by a long shot! They should conduct similar tests ten times over to get a feel for long term reliability and success rates. They should use different approach angles. They should conduct the test under adverse weather conditions. They should try the test with a ship that wasn’t ‘tweaked’ for the test and didn’t have tech reps helping out. Still, for whatever drawbacks, limitations, and flaws the test might have had, it was still leaps and bounds beyond what the US Navy does and the Australians are to be commended.
(1)Australian Strategic Policy Institute, “Rearming the Anzacs”, Robert Macklin,https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2017-12/Rearming%20the%20ANZACs_3.pdf?ttG8fYqc_iQGzyArk.LvSIL_1xo4rIpj