Thursday, May 25, 2017

LRASM Drops Out of OTH Competition

Well, the Navy’s over the horizon (OTH) anti-ship missile (ASM) selection process just gets more baffling by the day!  As you recall, the Navy is looking for an OTH ASM to arm its LCS ships and, possibly, Burkes and other ships.  The OTH ASM is intended both to give the toothless LCS a bit of bite and to make the LCS and every other ship in the Navy components in the much-hyped distributed lethality concept that the Navy seems committed to.  You’ll further recall that distributed lethality is one of the outgrowths of the Third Offset Strategy which is predicated on networks and UAVs.  The Third Offset and Distributed Lethality envision a vast regional (world wide?!) network of all-seeing sensors completely interconnected with every platform and weapon.  Every ship in the Navy thus becomes an offensive threat – or so the fairy tale goes.  The key to all of this is, of course, networking.  Remember that - we’ll come back to it in a moment.

You’ll also recall that Boeing just recently dropped out of the OTH competition, stating that its missile, the Harpoon, was overqualified (see, "Harpoon Drops Out of OTH Competition").

Now, in a fairly surprising bit of news, Lockheed has announced that it, too, is dropping the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) out of the competition.

“After long and careful consideration, Lockheed Martin has decided to withdraw from the U.S. Navy Over-the-Horizon Weapon System (OTH-WS) competition. As the current OTH-WS request for proposal process refined over time, it became clear that our offering would not be fully valued,” read a statement from the company provided to USNI News.” (1)

“Lockheed Martin, frustrated by changing requirements the company feels are skewed to a particular competitor [Kongsberg’s NSM], is dropping out of the U.S. Navy’s over-the-horizon missile program … “ (2)

Their offering would not be fully valued????  What does that mean?  Apparently, it means that certain features of the missile would not be considered as benefits in the eyes of the Navy selectors.

“Both companies expressed concern that the Navy was giving little consideration to the networked capability of the weapons, USNI News understands.” (1)

“…Boeing and Lockheed felt that key attributes of their systems, particularly networking capabilities and in-flight targeting updates, were being discounted, robbing Lockheed’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM, and Boeing’s extended-range Harpoon Block II Plus of key competitive advantages.

“There was no value for being able to go after radiating or emitting targets,” an industry source said, discounting an LRASM capability that can detect emitting and moving targets.  “Through responses it became clear there would be no credit for attacking emitting targets, and no requirement to be on a network.”

The absence of a networking requirement was “surprising,” the industry source said, “given the needs of the distributed lethality concept,” which envisions netting together weapons, sensors and command facilities on a variety of platforms.  

Additionally, the industry source said, there was “no plan to do a cost-per-kill analysis. They made that clear. So no extra credit for improved survivability.” (2)

So, if you believe Lockheed and Boeing, the OTH ASM selection competition is a sham and the Navy has a pre-determined winner, the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) already selected.  Now, do I believe Lockheed and Boeing?  Do they have any credibility?  Emphatically, no!  However, they have both dropped out of a potentially lucrative competition so that means that there is something seriously wrong.  With that in mind, yes, I am inclined to believe that the Navy has already, unofficially selected the NSM for the OTH ASM.

The only alternative explanation is that the Navy is conducting a fair and open competition but that the real requirements are for a vastly dumbed down missile with no networking capability and that just doesn’t seem believable.  The entire foundation of the Third Offset Strategy and the Navy’s distributed lethality concept is networking – the very feature that they don’t want in the OTH ASM?  Does that seem believable?

The Navy, and the military in general, loves to trumpet tests wherein a Boy Scout in Montana controls a Standard missile fired by a cruiser in the Pacific until the missile is re-targeted, mid flight, by a Marine private marching out of his boot camp graduation ceremony while he relays the new targeting data via a handheld quadcopter.  Given the Navy’s love of this kind of nonsensical networking capability, the dependence of distributed lethality on networking, the Navy’s pursuit of NIFC-CA (Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air) and CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability), again I ask, does not requiring networking in the OTH ASM sound believable?

Now, understand, I have no sympathy for Lockheed or Boeing and I have no problem with the Navy tailoring their industry requests (RFP) to give them exactly the product they want.  Their requests should be specific and tailored.  Why pay for capabilities you don’t want or need? 

However, if the stories and claims are to be believed, what the Navy appears to want doesn’t match their desired warfighting concepts, as questionable as those may be in my mind.  This is inconsistent.  I’m missing something here.

What is it about the NSM that makes the Navy want it so bad?  You’ll recall that we recently looked at the NSM (see, "Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile") and concluded that it was a nice weapon with some advantages and disadvantages.  Curiously, we also noted that it was claimed to be capable of in-flight re-targeting which suggests at least a degree of networking which is at odds with Lockheed and Boeing’s claims.  Be that as it may, nothing about the NSM jumped out as a world-beater capability that would make it the automatic choice of the Navy for an OTH ASM.  The NSM’s completely passive nature was an unusual feature but that did not strike me as an overwhelming advantage.

Kongsberg NSM - Where's the Magic?

I can’t answer my own question.  I don’t know what makes the NSM so desirable to the Navy that they would write RFPs that “force” the Harpoon and LRASM out of the competition. 

Further, forcing the LRASM out is doubly puzzling because the LRASM is being developed as the air-launched ASM of the Navy and most observers, myself included, assumed the ship-launched version would quickly follow and that the LRASM would become the standard Navy OTH ASM.  Now, it’s possible that the NSM could become the LCS OTH missile and the LRASM could be selected, separately, for Burkes but I would have thought the Navy would have been driven to standardize on a single OTH ASM.

Finally, forcing Lockheed and Boeing out leaves only a single competitor.  Is that single competitor, knowing that the Navy has no other option, likely to offer their cheapest bid?  Of course not!  The single source competitor is going to greatly increase their bid to the highest point that they think they can get without triggering a reopening of the competition.  Instead of getting everyone's cheapest bids the Navy will get a single source's highest bid!  That's one of the reasons why monopolies are bad.  I would have thought the Navy would leave the requirements loose enough to at least have a few companies offer a bid so that all the bids are cheaper.  In the end, the Navy can always select the one they want, anyway, so there's no harm in having multiple bidders even if the Navy already knows which one they want. There's no harm, and a lot of good, in having multiple bidders.  The Navy seems to have no business sense about how to play competitors against each other.

In summary, I have no idea what’s going on here. 


(1)USNI News website, “Lockheed Martin Drops LRASM Out of Littoral Combat Ship/Frigate Missile Competition”, Sam LaGrone, 24-May-2017,

(2)Defense News website, “Lockheed Martin Drops Out of US Navy Missile Competition”, Christopher Cavas, 24-May-2017,


  1. This makes little sense to me as well.

    Just from a logistics standpoint doesn't it make more sense to have one missile??

    do logistics not count with missiles?

    And what about the autonomous mode of LRASM? In a real war with disrupted networks that might come in handy.

    I have a sinking feeling that the spiritual progeny of those who brought us the Ford Pinto and Pontiac Aztec now work in the Navy.

  2. I suspect the main advantage of NSM is that it is a smaller missile that is easier to integrate and better matched to LCS sensor capabilities. LRASM's warhead alone weighs more than NSM.

    1. That sounds plausible except that neither Boeing nor Lockheed cited weight or dimension constraints as a reason for dropping out.

    2. The question isn't why Harpoon and LRASM dropped out, the question is why they were there in the first place. I expect USN identified NSM as their preferred solution early on, but was forced to the appearance of considering all domestic options (from Hellfire to LRASM) for political reasons.

    3. "... the question is why they were there in the first place. I expect USN identified NSM as their preferred solution early on ..."

      That's plausible but, if so, I'm failing to see what features or characteristics make the NSM so overwhelmingly and automatically the obvious choice over the Harpoon and LRASM.

      Also, if true, I'm failing to see why the Navy is continuing to pursue the LRASM as the air launched anti-ship missile and seem to be pursuing a ship launched version as well.

      Any thoughts on that?

    4. Small weapons for small warships, big weapons for big warships, each suited to different tasks and targets. Nobody is asking why LCS doesn't have a 5" gun or SM-2 missiles. Undoubtedly NSM and LRASM will coexist together going forward, there is no conflict between them anymore than there is between SDB and a Mk. 84 bomb, or between MD-530 and CH-47.

      Why would you want to fit a large, expensive weapon to a ship that can't employ it effectively without (as you say) networking with external assets that may not be present, or that may be jammed, etc.?

    5. Umm ... You may be missing the point (or question) of the post which was why the Navy would choose a non-networked anti-ship missile for a ship that is supposed to be part of the distributed lethality network? Further, why would the Navy choose a non-networked weapon when the entire thrust of naval development (unwisely!) is towards total networking of all weapons and sensors? It seems like a step backward from the Navy's perspective and objectives.

    6. Ok, and my point is that by omitting the large difference in size -- and therefore both ease of integration and cost -- between NSM and LRASM you could in fact be missing the dominant factors. Perhaps USN has realised it actually can't afford to fit Tomawhawks to Tugs and Harpoons to HMMVWs and that it is better to fit weapons that the platform can make effective use of via onboard sensors, such that networking is a bonus, rather than required to be effective.

    7. If the Navy has concluded that they can't afford larger anti-ship missiles and want to go with Hellfire-ish weapons then they're abandoning the entire thrust of the current LCS development which is distributed lethality.

      On the other hand, if you're saying that NSM is being selected because it's cheaper than the LRASM or Tomahawk and the Navy is okay with the NSM being non-networked and using ship's sensors then there's a huge mismatch between the missile's range (100-300 nm, depending on flight profile) and the LCS sensor range (20 nm or so). So, again, this doesn't make sense.

      Networking is not a bonus, it is REQUIRED for distributed lethality to work. Without it, you just have a bunch of semi-blind individual ships running around without good situational awareness.

    8. NSM is more economical in cost and weight than Harpoon or LRASM, and would make a nice addition to an expendable or low-end ship like the LCS. In fact, NSM is well suited for ships with limited sensor ranges and that are likely to operate on their own with little supporting reconnaissance.

      We need to think about how the Mattis-led Navy will use LCS in conjunction with other weapons in a conflict. LCS is not a high-end long-range shooter. However, NSM will give the LCS more shots at any enemy surface ship it would run into. Moreover, NSM can target specific classes of ships with its optical sensors and is supposed to be capable of in-flight re-targeting.

    9. A couple of hypotheses:

      The USN has realised that the LCS can't carry a useful number of missiles that can take part in distributed lethality. They've decided to fall back on a useful number of missiles that can't. The LCS was always really intended for shooting up Iranian speedboats in the Gulf (which is why the Saudis are interested) and somebody hasn't appreciated that those actions are likely to take place at night.

      The less sensible (!) hypothesis is that they're scaling up their expenditure process by deliberately buying an inadequate missile and then having to replace it with an American one.

    10. "The USN has realised that the LCS can't carry a useful number of missiles that can take part in distributed lethality."

      What do you consider a useful number? The concept of DISTRIBUTED lethality is that each ship carries just a small number of weapons, hence the "distributed" part of the name, and that the useful mass of weapons is achieved by several ships all coordinating fires on a single target, hence the need for networking.

      So, what do you think a useful number is that the LCS can't carry?

    11. "NSM is well suited for ships with limited sensor ranges and that are likely to operate on their own with little supporting reconnaissance."

      So, how does the ship with "limited sensor ranges" find a target? And, how does that square with the Navy's distributed lethality concept?

    12. "So, what do you think a useful number is that the LCS can't carry?"

      Given the weight figures quoted, somewhere in the 8-10 range. I was being pretty cynical, but there's a problem when you try to put distributed lethality into action with humans making the decisions.

      If you have a lot of very assorted ships, which are distributed over a wide area, some of which have already fired some of their missiles, you have a problem in deciding who should fire at what that seems likely to get confusing for the admiral, and result in mistakes being made.

    13. For Harpoon, 8x is the standard Mk141 arrangement and I would assume (cautiously!) that's what would be on the LCS.

      The whole concept of Third Offset/Distributed Lethality is that the network "controls" the weapons allocation. The Admiral is only along for the ride and to say shoot or don't shoot. Just like Aegis in auto mode.

    14. Yup, that's the concept. How much of the network has actually been implemented? Has the USN actually paid for and taken delivery of any hardware that's dedicated to distributed lethality?

      Aegis centralises control. The computer on the master ship is in control, and is only told what to do in general terms. Having that arrangement over a large area puts you very much at risk from the opponent's EW capabilities. So you need to decentralise control, and that's a hard problem in communications and software.

      Distributed lethality was created as a strategic concept to cope with Chinese ASBMs and give the LCS a claim to being useful. Those are political imperatives. They don't give you any clues on how to resolve the technical problems inherent in distributed lethality.

      I'm not at all convinced that there is any actual implementation of automated distributed lethality. It's been a great slogan for a couple of years, but does the emperor actually have any clothes on?

  3. CNOPs- Missiles and weapons haven't really evolved much since the "build out" of the 1990's... Seems to me not much innovation in weapons development except to digitize and make smarter maybe and incorporate the whiz-bang of GPS accuracy. Since JSOW literally fell short on the battlefield in the late 1990's we have been in stasis.

    The Boeing and LM missiles offerings seem to have a lot of bells and whistles that help their products fly to a high PK and have the kinetic energy (warhead size) to destroy a surface target be it a surface ship, especially a compartmentalized, at GQ, combatant....

    Both OEMs seem to be saying that the US Navy doesn't want to play in the "major league" of ship killing capability and really wants a smaller weapon (destructive capability and range) in order to offer the (LCS) Little Crappy Ship some warfare role? Seems like the requirement is looking for a small capability, ship irritating vice killing weapon. IE- SSM missiles like Penguin and Hellfire..

    Yeah I've heard about this networking stuff touted over and again by Manazir and high level communications integration and I like it, who doesn't? However, doesn't the kill capability of an anti-ship missile seems even more important to actual warfighting? The techno geeks of the world are in charge of the hardware via their sw requirements. That's one big reason we don't have enough "stuff"- ships, subs, aircraft today.

    Is that possible? ;-) Don't forget this is the Navy that developed the MQ-25 "Recovery tanker" program from several failed endeavors over the past ten years and part of the same DoD that the USAF awarded a contract to a company, L3, to pick a plane for their mission (Compass Call). Of course there is always LCS itself to make a point and other programs too big to kill.


    1. Maybe, but if the Navy is looking for a smaller missile doesn't that invalidate or negate the entire distributed lethality concept when the weapons are not actually lethal. Maybe they'll rename it, distributed irritability?

      Remember, the Navy claims to want to put this missile on every ship in the fleet (stupid, but that's their claim). It makes no sense to risk vital tankers, amphibious ships, and replenishment ships conducting distributed lethality operations only to have the chosen weapon not be lethal.

      Distributed irritability. We'll annoy the enemy into giving up. I like it!

      I'm completely baffled about this.

    2. Putting Hellfire and NSM in the same category is absurd. One is a 50kg weapon with 10kg warhead and 10km range, the other is a 400kg weapon with 125kg warhead and 185km range.

    3. b2 was not suggesting that Hellfire and NSM are in the same category. He was suggesting that the Navy requirements may be more focused on a smaller weapon.

    4. "Missiles and weapons haven't really evolved much since the "build out" of the 1990's"

      Not sure what you're driving at with this. Missiles have come a long way from the simple Harpoon and Tomahawk of the early days. Missiles now have supersonic speed, stealth, mid-course guidance and re-targeting, multiple flight profiles, on board ECM, autonomous target recognition, cooperative engagement, intelligent target allocation, enhanced countermeasure resistance, etc. It seems like missiles have come a long way!

      I think you were trying to make a point but I fear I've missed it. Try again?

  4. If the NSM is the intended missile, would not the RBS15 Mk III be an option? And if so why have Saab not entered a bid?


    1. Read citation 2. It discusses Saab and the RBS-15. The short version is Saab also decided to drop out of the competition although they declined to give reasons beyond not being a good business fit.

      Something odd is going on here and I don't know what it is. The Navy has, apparently, made so clear that NSM will be the chosen "winner" that no other company feels it's worth their time, energy, and money to even offer a bid. That's astounding.

  5. 1. Wasn't LCS (concept and deployment) came up before China's A2/AD (which push the contest back to blue water again).

    2. Therefore, to counter A2/AD (by not putting all eggs in CSGs), the Navy countered with 'distributed lethality' and press LCS (with non-VLS ASM) into service into such role.

    3. Then PLAN starts to extend from A2/AD to 'blue water' concept/operation of its own- and the surface contest may evolve into PLAN-DDG/Cruiser vs. USN-DDG/Cruiser, with future VLS missiles no longer compatible with mission requirement of LCS in a blue water contest.

    4. Therefore, if LCS are not expected to go toe-to-toe against PLAN DDG/Cruiser in blue water, then it might not be cost effective to equip it so, except in the case of self-defense in unplanned encounters.

    1. LCS was intended primarily for the Mediterranean (ASuW, anti-swarm), mine countermeasures, and ASW. It was never specifically intended for use in a China war setting.

      Once the magnitude of the LCS failure became apparent, the Navy began desperately searching for other missions that could justify the LCS. Some moron came up with distributed lethality which is the Navy's version of the numerous Chinese missile boats (such as the Type 22). Unfortunately, the features that make the Chinese missile boats effective and threatening also make the Navy's distributed lethality ineffective. The Navy tried to force-fit the LCS into a role it is not suited for.

      Distributed lethality doesn't envision any ship going "toe-to-toe". The whole point of distributed lethality is for numerous, slightly capable ships to "gang up" on enemy ships. The very concept of distributed lethality is to break up the firepower into tiny, individual packages (the LCS and a few missiles, for example), none of which are individually very powerful - just like the Type 22 missile boats. The problem is that the Type 22 has all the desirable features that the LCS does not: small size, cheap, operates in home waters, has massive sensor support, expendable, large numbers, local basing, readily available logistic support, etc. The LCS lacks all of those qualities.

  6. The likely issue is cost. It is highly likely that NSM is significantly cheaper than LRASM and the additional capabilities of LRASM cannot offset the cost difference based on the parameters of the competition. Also NSM is probably going to be able to support more missiles on LCS than LRASM can.

    As far as network capability, JSM has Link-16 support and it is supposed to be back ported to NSM. I could certainly see LRASM having better network capabilities but unlikely cost offset.

    As far as LRASM/NSM in general, I think the navy has come to terms that they'll have both in air and surface use. NSM/JSM has use cases that LRASM can't compete with (the big one being intern carriage in F-35).

    1. "The likely issue is cost."

      You could be right, however, that means the Navy is abandoning their vaunted distributed lethality concept and I've seen no such indication.

      So, in your theory, Lockheed and Boeing are citing advanced networking and other advanced capabilities as not being "valued" by the Navy as a way of saying that they won't be able to charge a premium for a capability that the Navy doesn't "value"? Could be but still doesn't square with the desire for distributed lethality. I think we're still missing something. Of course, one can never discount utter stupidity by the Navy as the true explanation!

    2. You're right that it doesn't match the Navy's plan... but why should that bother us?

      Retiring the Tico's doesn't match the Navy's demand for more ships. The crappy performance of the LCS vs. Swarms doesn't match the Navy's stated desire to defeat swarm attacks.

      This to me is just another instance of the Navy saying one thing and doing another. The Navy is very dedicated to its unstated sub thesis of 'Staying out of political harms way' and 'Increasing budget slice'.

      It may well be weight, a realization that the LCS is useless for distributed lethality as they see fit, so they'll A) increase budget slice by buying a missle, while concurrently making Congress happy by making the LCS 'more lethal and B) trying to satisfy two sets of lobbyists; Raytheon for ship launched and LRASM for air launched.

      I might be cynical.

    3. "I might be cynical."

      If you're not, you haven't been reading this blog long enough!

    4. I don't see it as abandoning distributed lethality. NSM will have limited retargeting capabilities and the launch platform itself can be networked. It appears that they simply don't see the cost benefit of paying significantly more money to get less missiles with marginally more effective networking for the LCS style mission. AKA, the NSM cost/benefit is the better fit for the LCS/frigate style mission set.

      They'll still have the capability to load in some VL-LRASM in all the proposed frigate designs via MK41 but it won't form the mainline offensive capability for the ship. In addition, they'll have LRASM capability in the fleet at large.

      I view it similar to the fact that the army has a wide variety of weapons and platforms and doesn't see a strict need that every weapon fires the same ammunition. Not every aircraft cannon needs to be a GAU-8, not every cannon needs to be 30mm, etc.

    5. Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm not particularly for or against any specific missile. I'm just puzzled by the apparent desire to "push" the other manf's out of the competition. Why wouldn't the Navy at least want to see what the others bid?

      There's something else going on here and I'm missing it.

    6. It might not be so much the Navy pushing them out as Kongsberg/Raytheon doing it. NSM is by all reports significantly cheaper than both LRASM/Harpoon and if the contest is structured as a price sensitive one with little to no bonus for exceeding requirements, then it may simply be Boeing/LM saving face. AKA, they knew they weren't going to win, so why compete.

      AKA, the navy starts a contest for land attack missiles, Tomahawk and JSOW both enter, Navy releases requirements to 100nm range, Tomahawk withdraws.

  7. Given the warhead difference, I really hope LRASM is still a possibility for the Burkes.

    I'm not really concerned or bothered by what arms the LCS anymore.

  8. "Kongsberg NSM - Where's the Magic?" Another vote for weight.

    Both the LCS classes are severely weight challenged by design. Austal April 5 at SAS 2017 showed their contender for the LCS/frigate competition fitted with 16 x OTH-WS missiles. Sixteen NSMs (900 lbs) vers. LRASM (~2,250 lbs) show a total weight saving of ~10 tons in favor of the NSM.

    The 'Austal Independence Frigate' is a 3,500 tons ship with range quoted at 4,300 nm at 12 knots(equivalent to ~2,900 nm at 16 knots), highlighting the desperate need to save weight for fuel. The Austal Independence class is a paragon of virtue compared with the LM Freedom class in max. nm range capabilities.

    The Navy need to save face to justify the LCS ships, something more impressive than the Bofors 5 mile 2 1/4" main gun, so the lighter NSM, so no Third Offset Strategy with distributed lethality and only left with ability to target enemy ships at ~ 20+ miles with the 100 mile NSM.

    1. Your explanation is not unreasonable but it does not agree with the facts as cited by Lockheed and Boeing. Both cite changing requirements, specifically networking, as reasons for dropping out - not weight. Unless both companies are lying and telling the same lie, I'm inclined to believe them and that doesn't match your explanation. It also doesn't match the Navy's intense desire to achieve distributed lethality.

      So, good explanation but it doesn't match the facts, as far as we know them.

    2. My presumption is the Navy have changed the requirements so as to favor the lighter, newer and passive NSM as confirmed by Boeing and LM.

      The Navy's "intense desire to achieve distributed lethality" has been thrown overboard for the greater good of mitigating further bad PR headlines on LCS ships due to lack of offensive capability, reflected in Austal's frigate proposal as loaded out with sixteen OTH missiles, a high number for the Navy to spin. The NSM as only 40% weight of the LRASM limiting damage to its weight constrained fuel bunker capacity.

    3. Well, if the Navy has abandoned distributed lethality, they've yet to make it known publicly. We'll see.

    4. The likely reason that LM/Boeing dropped out is that the navy revised the scoring matrix to make the networking capabilities less significant in the final scoring. Once again, I don't see it so much as removing distributed lethality, the NSM is perfectly capable of distributed lethality. What it isn't as capable of, for a variety of reason, is post launch re-targeting. Which isn't that big of the deal breaker in distributed lethality given its radius. Something like LRASM with a 300++nm radius will have a much greater need for post launch re-targeting flexibility simply due to time of flight delay. Preferring NSM over LRASM for some missions is similar to preferring AIM-9 over AIM-120 for some missions.

    5. Could be, except that it runs counter to everything the Navy is saying as regards re-targeting on the fly and networking. The whole idea is that the magical F-35 will find, track, and control waves of weapons. If they can't control and retarget the NSM, it somewhat defeats the purpose of the F-35 and the entire distributed/networking concept.

      The Navy has done nothing but talk up the miracle of networking and in flight re-targeting and now, given the opportunity to make it happen, they opt to go with the NSM?????? That is completely inconsistent. There's something else going on here.

  9. This could be real simple. The Navy has stated they want a ready to go off the shelf missile. LRASM and Harpoon Block 2+ ER don't exist as deck launched missiles yet. They are both proposals on paper waiting for the Navy to fund their creation. Their "network" capabilities have yet to be integrated onto or demonstrated on any ship. Its smart to devalue that which doesn't exist and will have to be paid for when evaluating a system for (relatively) rapid integration. Everything the NSM claims to do as a ship launched missile has been demonstrated and can be evaluated from actual firings and installations. Its the only one of the 3 that's actually launched off a deck and blown up a ship. Everything I've seen re: LRASM and Harpoon Block 2+ ER as deck launched weapons indicates that Lockheed and Boeing are willing to demonstrate they will work as advertised only once the Navy pays for it.

    1. "Harpoon Block 2+ ER don't exist as deck launched missiles yet."

      You have a plausible point for the LRASM but the Harpoon has existed as a deck launched weapon system for years. It uses the Mk141 rack launcher which is a deck bolt-on assembly.

    2. Boeing has never launched the missile in the configuration they were proposing for LCS anywhere ever. As shown by the failure of the very lightly modified Harpoon launched from Coronado for its demonstration, even minor modifications in the same outer shell can cause problems.

      A modified Harpoon is definitely lower developmental risk than LRASM, however an unmodified NSM is near no risk.

    3. I think you're reaching a bit for this. Harpoon has been around for years in various iterations. There is no reason to believe that the Blk 2+ represents any significant risk, let alone enough for the Navy to outright pass on it.

      Similarly, the LRASM, while a somewhat riskier development, is based on the existing JASSM so the ultimate development is a pretty safe bet. Again, not enough risk to think the Navy would not even want to see a bid from the manf on it.

      The Coronado Harpoon failure has not been attributed to any modifications of the missile, as far as I know. The launch was successful but the missile apparently missed the target. In fact, I'm not aware of any modifications made to the missile other than it was partially defueled for safety reasons. If you have more information on the missile modifications and cause of failure, please let me know.

    4. " There is no reason to believe that the Blk 2+ represents any significant risk,.."

      Its the Block 2+ ER. An as yet non existent variant.
      New motor, new warhead, in addition to the new block 2 + guidance section, the only legacy major components are the airframe, container and launcher. The airframe is acknowledged to be marginal in current ship to ship engagements. So all it has going for it as low risk is the launching system is a known, and its costs are predictable. Its effectiveness on target is completely unproven and known only in theory. As far as I've seen Boeing hasn't said whether or not the fire control system will need significant updating.

      "let alone enough for the Navy to outright pass on it."

      Straw man. No one has said the Navy has chosen to pass on it, that was Boeing's decision. If a company can't make money against a competitor, then they wont bother, that is an essential part of our system, or should be. Too often its short circuited to generate jobs.

      "the LRASM, while a somewhat riskier development, is based on the existing JASSM so the ultimate development is a pretty safe bet."

      Its based on JASSM-ER a missile intended for aircraft launch, which has not itself passed all its milestones. LRASM hasn't even been proven out as an air launch system, its still in testing and integration. Its years, tens of millions, and many tests from being a complete deck launched system.

      LRASM is more than twice the cost of NSM or Harpoon, more than twice the weight of NSM, and its space requirements are unresolved. Those could easily be far too many cons for its pros to overcome.

      Bottom line: NSM is a damn good modern cost effective proven system needing next to no development being bought by several allied nations. Germany just ordered it for its ships. Harpoon block 2+ ER is operationally nonexistent and LRASM is unproven in almost all metrics as a ship launched weapon. Kongsberg and Norway saw the need in the marketplace for a new missile years ago and worked long and hard to get it right then they partnered with the worlds premier missile builder for this offering. It should not be surprising that Boeing and L-M can't compete with their last minute cobbled together systems.

    5. The Block II+ER has been tested at Point Mugu this past year. You're overstating the degree of "newness" of the missile. Both Boeing and the Navy describe the Block II+ER as an upgrade kit that can be applied to existing missiles.

      Setting that aside, you appear to be looking to create an argument where none exists. Whether one missile or another is superior is not the point of the post nor a point of contention. The point of the post, to refresh your memory, is the question about why the Navy would "devalue" networking and in-flight re-targeting after spending the last couple years talking up the wonders of Third Offset and Distributed Lethality which are critically dependent on networking. Further, for the Navy to tighten the requirements to the point that they discourage Boeing and Lockheed from even offering a bid is puzzling. By narrowing the requirements to an extreme, the Navy is, for all intents and purposes, passing on the Boeing and Lockheed bids.

      Finally, your original supposition, while reasonable, does not fit the observed facts. Both Boeing and Lockheed seem to agree that the Navy has narrowed requirements to the point that networking is of no value. Neither company has cited weight, cost, development time, or any other aspect as reasons they've dropped out. Thus, to repeat, while your scenario is reasonable it is not supported by the few facts we have.

    6. Agree with CNO so far.

      I can see where LRASM weight is significantly bigger and could be a problem but Harpoon is pretty close in class with NSM plus Boeing is doing some more testing this year so it's almost ready to go. Harpoon been around since the 60s so I can't believe BA can't find a few pounds here or there to shed plus considering how long it's been in production, BA should be competitive on price. So why did LMT and especially BA just walk away from the contract? I don't think it's that obvious that NSM is the better missile. USB said let's have a competition to find out BUT everybody walked out!WHY?!? So what makes NSM so special to USN? Just the weight?!?

    7. "Block II+ER has been tested at Poinugu this past year."
      You seem to be confused. Block 2+ was tested. It is a guidance only upgrade. Block 2+ ER is proposed but as yet nonexistant. Boeing has proposed to start testing it late this year.

      To your original point. The Navys concept of DL does not call for tying every weapon to the network, it primarily focuses on tying platforms to the network such that those platforms can be linked to attack from multiple and unpredictable locations. The Navys primary focus on linking weapons has been on longer range weapons and those that must at times be targeted by platforms other than the launching platform (such as SM-6 attacking an aircraft over the horizon that an AWACS can see but an Aegis ship cant). The network is an added capability, it is not necessary for the weapon to perform its required mission. (SM-6 can still hit any airplane that its Aegis launching ship can provide initial targeting data on) Weighting networking such that it allows other undesirable characteristics for a weapon that will be employed at relatively short ranges (100nm +-) would be foolish. Secondly the further problem may be that LRASM (since it was designed to be networked), and Harpoon Block2+ may lack the sensor breadth and identification fidelity to be effective in some necessary conditions without updating from the network. If the requirement was x effectiveness with a downgraded and/or unavailable network and LRASM/Harpoon can't meet that requirement then LM and Boeing would protest that they werent given enough credit for networking. It would also be stupid for the Navy to change it because it is essential that LCS/Frigate have some way to complete the kill chain without dependance on the network.

      A quote from this article gives us a clue what might be going on here:

      "The draft RFP, outlining some of Navy requirements for the missile, calls for extensive simulations to explore certain desired technical parameters.
      The simulations to include GPS-denied and extended GPS-denied environments; seeker discrimination; seeker aim-point determination; lethality to include specified fuze effects; fire-control launch sequencing; and mission planning software."

      So the Navy is specifically looking for on target effectiveness in a communications denied environment probably against smallish moving targets and yet LM and Boeing complain that they dont get credit for being able to use the network to get on target.

      "Hey we have sucky sensors and navigation but we make up for it with the network, so you cant take the network away its not fair!"

      NSM was designed with and for a small Navy operating in difficult conditions, often in emissions denied or emissions limited states, off small ships against most likely bigger more capable opponents. Harpoon and LRASM have been designed for a Navy used to operating with data running down virtual fire hoses with complete air dominance. Its no wonder they are complaining about being denied credit for using "the network".

    8. "Hey we have sucky sensors and navigation but we make up for it with the network, so you cant take the network away its not fair!"

      Understand just the opposite for the LRASM. DARPA program for the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile Deployment Office (LDO) funded BAE Systems, Electronics, Nashua, N.H. for the seeker and guidance, were so impressed by its capabilities they then choose the LM AGM-158B as the carrier, so the LRSAM.

      Wikipedia "BAE Systems-designed seeker and guidance system, integrating jam-resistant GPS/INS, passive RF and threat warning receiver, an imaging infrared (IIR infrared homing) seeker with automatic scene/target matching recognition, a data-link, and passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and radar warning receiver sensors. Artificial intelligence software combines these features to locate enemy ships and avoid neutral shipping in crowded areas."

      Program Office "OASuW Inc 1 has successfully progressed from technology development through a production readiness decision in 10 months, and the program remains on track for early operational capability fielding in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018."

      LRSAM procurement cost $342 million for 110 missiles, $3.1 million each compared to ~ $0.8 million for NSM. NSM a lighter and cheaper option than the more sophisticated LRSAM.

    9. The Harpoon Blk II+ER has undergone captive carry testing at Point Mugu and was scheduled for further testing early this year (haven't heard anything about whether that occurred or not).

      Harpoon II+ER Captive Carry Photo

    10. NSM uses GPS/INS for guidance. As discussed in a previous post on the NSM, if GPS is denied that leaves only INS which is questionable for accuracy over long distances. The NSM terrain matching is, presumably, useless over water.

    11. The larger issue, here, is why the Navy would so tightly restrict requirements that they would prompt Lockheed and Boeing to drop out. That results in a single bidder. A single bidder no longer has to worry about presenting an affordable bid. The single source manf can present a much higher bid. By forcing Lockheed and Boeing out, the Navy has ensured that they will pay a hefty premium for the NSM. As I've said repeatedly, this makes no sense. There's something else going on here.

    12. In a GPS denised environment, the LRASM autonomous targeting capability ought to be highly valued. NSM has a precise target imaging capability but that is not the same as autonomous targeting.

    13. "Program Office "OASuW Inc 1 has successfully progressed "

      Of course, recall how many glowing pronouncements of triumph have been issued about the LCS and F-35 - so take official pronouncements with a thousand pound block of salt!

    14. Both NSM and LRASM targeting work pretty much the same. Both use IIR to located a target ship from a database of targets and then refine the specific impact point. The main autonomy difference between the two is more route to target area. LRASM is capable of full autonomous deviation based on both unknown and pop up threats while NSM is a simple way point system.

    15. "the Navy has ensured that they will pay a hefty premium for the NSM."

      This is not necessarily true. Whether the price is excessive depends on how Raytheon and Kongsberg view the market.

      Your supposition is true in most cases for the DOD for a simple reason: the US DOD tends to be the only significant buyer for many of the weapons systems it buys. . It is the entire market available to the manufacturer. The true competitive market value is therefor unknowable. This is not the case with NSM sized ASMs. There is a broad and competitive market.

      It is unlikely NSM will be excessively priced to the Navy for these reasons:

      -The manufacturer is not developing the weapon for the Navy, it is already available in the market and sold in quantity therefore the development cost and risk are already covered
      -Kongsberg will want the imprimatur of the US Navy as a selling point to other buyers

      -The added capacity, and leverage of a production partnership with Raytheon is highly desirable to Kongsberg, and the entry into the global ASM market afforded by NSM is highly desirable to Raytheon.

      -The NSM team knows that the Navy does not have to accept their bid if it is not fairly priced. Pricing for NSM is known. Its been sold to several customers. The Navy can reject the bid and rebid with modified requirements to suit other bidders. Just rejecting the NSM bid as price excessive would create huge problems for the future of NSM sales.

      In short, if the NSM team is smart (they are) they will put in a bid the Navy can't refuse. They are in position to do so more than any other competitor. They will then build their profit on modifications, foreign sales and other opportunities a sale to the US Navy affords once one is a production program.

      LM and Boeing are smart too. They have probably generated the intelligence needed to know where the NSM teams bid is likely to be, know they cant possibly compete on price and are now maneuvering to possibly change the terms and cover ass. Remember , these are S&P 500 companies. A loss on a bid against little old Kongsberg could be a percent + loss on the stock. For Boeing thats more than a billion lost against a contract worth 300- 400 million. They need a reason to feed the stock holders to minimize the impact. "We had our asses handed to us" wont work.

    16. "Whether the price is excessive depends on how Raytheon and Kongsberg view the market."

      To believe that the Kongsberg/Raytheon won't raise their bid even one dollar now that there are no competitors is to believe in the Easter Bunny. Of course they will raise their bid. How much remains to be seen.

      I already stated that would have to balance the degree of their avarice against the possibility of the Navy reopening the competition but, even so, the Navy paying a premium IS AN ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. Even the possibility of the Navy reopening the competition is a very remote likelihood. Historically, it is seldom done and, in this specific case, the Navy has so clearly signaled their exclusive interest that the threat, or even the actual occurrence, of a reopened bid would be mere window dressing. If the Navy is as dead set as they appear to be on the NSM, they aren't going to realistically reopen the competition and, if they did, Lockheed and Boeing would have no more reason to reenter the process than they do now - which is none.

      As far as pricing according to foreign markets, that would be valid if the foreign markets were identical to the US Navy market - they aren't. The US government procurement process has its own sets of rules and regulations, all of which add enormous costs. K/R will price according to the US market plus whatever premium they feel they can get away with.

      Partnering with Raytheon all but guarantees a huge premium bid. Raytheon has never given the US govt a "charitable" bid and there is no reason to believe they will now. They will push the bid as high as they think they can.

      Interesting sidenote, I wonder which company has the ultimate price setting authority?

      "The NSM team knows that the Navy does not have to accept their bid if it is not fairly priced. "

      That's hilarious! The Navy accepts grossly high and "unfair" contracts all the time. That's the rule, not the exception. Your view of the Navy's procurement process and acceptance standards is not in line with history and actual data. If you've followed this blog, you've seen a steady stream of documentation of the Navy cheerfully accepting hideously "unfair" contracts.

      "This is not the case with NSM sized ASMs. There is a broad and competitive market."

      Not in the US and not for the Navy/LCS there isn't. The Navy is desperate to get a credible ASM on the LCS to counter the deluge of negative, mocking publicity over the toothlessness of the LCS. To stop the entire process, start the whole ASM selection process over again, and risk Congressional funding and increased oversight/criticism is not something the Navy will allow. The Navy will pay whatever premium they have to.

    17. "To believe that the Kongsberg/Raytheon won't raise their bid even one dollar now that there are no competitors is to believe in the Easter Bunny. Of course they will raise their bid. How much remains to be seen."

      No they probably wont raise their bid.

      The going price for the latest Harpoon Block 2 (before the mods needed to make the ER version) is about 1.2 million. Raytheon and Kongsberg know these things:

      1. Boeing has about 0 chance of producing a Harpoon more advanced than the Block 2 for $1.2 million.

      2. LRASM was never price competitive, its a 2-3 million dollar missile.

      3. Kongsberg has proven it can sell NSM for about .8 million


      Kongsberg/Raytheon can sell the missile to the Navy with or without competition at a price that customer has been happy paying and is not considered excessive and still earn up to a 50% premium and probably push their primary competitor (Harpoon) right out of the market if they price it at about $1.2 million or less. Hence why Boeing and LM are out. Their only chance of being competitive would be to force on Kongsberg an expensive modification to the missile, like networking or to get "credit" (a lot of credit) for the only thing they have and NSM doesnt.

      " To stop the entire process, start the whole ASM selection process over again, and risk Congressional funding and increased oversight/criticism is not something the Navy will allow. The Navy will pay whatever premium they have to."

      Phooey. Congress will freak out if the Navy pays more for that "foreign" missile than its been paying for the one wrapped in red white and blue (Harpoon). The Navy, the bidders, everyone with any sense (including the Easter Bunny) knows this. DOD, the Whitehouse or Congress can always tell the Navy to use the missile it has now in stock, is already on the ship, costs next to nothing and is 100% American; Harpoon 1c; or buy Block 2 and make due or (the final twist) let Boing finalize the 1c to Block 2+ER conversion and buy the conversion sole source off the shelf. Either would be a vast improvement over what native antiship capability LCS had: (0)

    18. I'm going to leave you with the last word. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Good discussion.

  10. With a 276 lb warhead how lethal is the NSM to modern ships? It seems a little light weight compared t the 500lbs Harpoon and the 900 lbs LRASM.

    1. Comparing explosive effects based simply on warhead weight is an inexact science, to say the least. Remember the example of the battleship 2000 lb shell with only a small bit of explosive? Explosive effects are a function of amount and type of explosive, degree of containment, and many other factors that I don't even pretend to know.

      Still, you bring up a good point. Harpoons are not particularly lethal to large ships (well, enough of them are, but not single hits) and one has to suspect that a smaller NSM is less so.

      That leads to the question, what targets are the distributed LCS's supposed to engage? NSM is, undoubtedly, adequate for killing a missile boat. A frigate? Probably not from a single hit (two Exocets did not kill the Perry FFG Stark, though it came close). A destroyer? No. A carrier or large transport/amphib? No.

      Does the Navy think they'll be able to mass enough LCS's to take down a major ship or do they think the LCS will only handle smaller targets? This gets into CONOPS which I'm not sure the Navy has thought through (actually, I'm sure the Navy has not thought through!).

      Good question!

    2. NSM warhead is a little strange compared to most. That 276lb warhead has 265lb of explosive fill. They keep the overall weight down via use of a titanium casing instead of iron/steel. For reference, a Mk82 500lb bomb has 196lb of explosive fill.

      As far as lethality, AFAIK, neither AShM nor naval guns (even 16" ones)actually sink ships. Generally they simply make a ship fighting ineffective. The warhead of NSM should at least be as effective as the Exocet's warhead plus the NSM has much better terminal targeting allowing it to hit specific section of the ship. Page 8 of has a NSM hitting a 2000 ton Oslo FFG and basically vaporizing the control portion of the ship. Can it take out an aircraft carrier? Probably not, but it can probably take out the tower which will cause not insignificant issues.


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