We previously discussed the Navy's developmental Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) during a brief discussion of future anti-ship missiles. This month's Proceedings (1) has a short update article about the progress of the LRASM. The LRASM is intended to be a subsonic, long range, autonomously targeting missile. According to the article, the missile's target recognition sensor suite has been tested and "exceeded all objectives". Of course, I think that exact quote has been used to describe every weapons program ever tested despite the fact that most turn out to be failures, ultimately!
Regardless, the most interesting tidbit from the article is a statement that the missile will use an electro-optical (EO) sensor for terminal target identification and precision targeting. Why is this interesting? If EO is the only terminal targeting sensor, this suggests a recognition on the part of the designers that radar/IR jamming and decoys are too effective to be worth "dueling" with. In other words, why continue to put ever bigger, more powerful anti-jamming counter-measures electronics into missiles when a much less susceptible EO sensor will work (assuming it works!). A note of caution, as you read this - the article doesn't explicitly state that there won't be a terminal radar and/or IR seeker - however, it only describes the EO sensor.
In the bigger picture, this suggests a recognition by the Navy that jamming in all forms is a serious and growing threat. The Navy has already acknowledged that the GPS system is susceptible and the features of the LRASM acknowledge that mid-course guidance communications and remote targeting will be unreliable in a jamming environment - hence, the autonomous nature of the LRASM. Of course, this relates to our previous discussion of BVR (Beyond Visual Range) issues. Will the Navy be willing to use an autonomous targeting anti-ship missile in a crowded environment and trust that it won't incorrectly target a friendly/neutral/civilian ship?
On a closely related note, the recognition of the effectiveness of jamming has huge implications for UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) development efforts. How will UAVs operate if their remote command links are electronically interrupted? The future of the Navy, we're lead to believe, is UAVs of various types and yet the foundation of UAVs is command communications which are susceptible to jamming. That issue is going to have to be addressed before the Navy moves too far along the UAV path. But, I digress ...
I'm pleased to see the Navy moving on with development of a more capable anti-ship missile and recognizing the real difficulties the weapon will face. I'll be watching this one closely.
(1) Naval Institute Proceedings, "Antiship Missile Moves Toward Flight Test", Edward Walsh, October 2012, p.86