Tag Archives: Naval Strike Missile

Independence Class LCS = Surveillance Frigates

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

The 17 Independence-class variants of the littoral combat ship– including some carrying hybrid surface warfare and mine countermeasures systems and seeing much better availability after switching from contractor to sailor-performed maintenance– have been getting some more attention and love from the Navy lately.

“We’ll always be operating in and around the archipelagos, probably Ryukyus, the Philippines, and areas into the Philippine Sea behind it. It turns out it is highly survivable and highly effective when operating in the environment it was built for,” said COMSEVENTHFLT Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commenting that one “pretty much owned” the South China Sea during a period last year where COVID had sidelined other, more sophisticated assets.

“It is not blue water ship by any means but when you put it in the archipelago and you combine low signature and high-speed, it turns out it’s very hard to target, very hard to kill and it’s very effective with a thousand places to get gas,” said Merz.

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

With that, Craig Hooper in a piece at Forbes argues the class could (finally) be settling into its groove, and points to its perhaps best use– creating mobile “surveillance bubbles” to point the Big Battle Fleet at stuff to kill.

Properly kitted out, an Independence Class surveillance frigate can serve as an electromagnetic warfare threat, collecting everything from tactical targeting data to strategically relevant emissions. Potentially add in a Marine Corps reconnaissance element, and things could get interesting.

Hooper argues to upgrade the sensor package on the Indys, fill them with UAVs, and turn them into proper surveillance frigates, with doctrine to match.

He may be on to something.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the LCS turn out to be something that can work?

Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) arrives in Trincomalee Sri Lanka June 23 2021

First pic of the Marines’ new Ship Killing Trucks

Raytheon just released a Navy-credited image of the Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, at work at Point Magu Mugu. The vehicle, which looks to be Oshkosh’s unmanned variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) known as “ROGUE Fires,” is loaded with a containerized module that includes a Norwegian Kongsberg-developed Naval Strike Missile, which is dramatically taking flight.

U.S. Navy photo via Raytheon

The planned successor to the 1970s-developed Harpoon as the Navy’s dedicated OTH anti-ship weapon, NSM has a greater range as well as a laundry list of attack profile updates. JLTV, meanwhile, is amphibious, helicopter, and fixed-wing transportable.

With the assumption that at least two, if not four, of the 900-pound NSMs could be carried on each of the ROGUE Fires trucks, a battery of six vehicles could carry up to 24 missiles linked to a central CCV truck with a platoon-sized crew (or smaller). That’s a small footprint for two dozen AShMs. Like atoll-sized or even oil platform-sized small.

Worst case scenario on a “shoot and scoot” after the missiles are expended from such pieces of tiny real estate: blow the vehicles with WP grenades and evac the battery crew by fastest means possible, e.g. MV-22, or provide them with rubber raiders to fall back just offshore for a submarine recovery– something the Marines have been revisiting lately. 

Of course, the scale is the key to something like this. If you only have a couple of these batteries the whole concept is academic. However, if you could sow, say, 50 batteries around a battlespace on every strip of sandy beach, hidden in every mangrove thicket, and hiding under netting on every coral reef, that is a serious distruptor. Like a “don’t bother going to battle” type of disruptor, which is the point of peace through superior firepower, right?

The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers.

However, these units could also be of use afloat. 

The Marines are already theorizing using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

From USNI News:

“Going back to uncoiling the lethality of the MAGTF, I see containerized weapon systems that the Marine Corps is using: when we jump onboard a ship, that becomes available to the ship’s captain. So maybe we don’t need to install launchers and NSM; maybe the Marine Corps [expeditionary advance base operations] forces serve as the main battery when we’re moving out,” Maj. Gen. Tracy King, who until recently served as the expeditionary warfare director on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said.

“To me, that just makes sense. We give the latitude and the flexibility to that ship’s captain to use those assets when he needs to. There’s been some naysayers to that, mostly in my tribe, because if you use all my missile before I get there, I don’t have my missiles. But I’m a little bit dismissive of that complaint because the ship’s got to get there first. So I think you’re going to see us employing containerized weapon systems that we can use wherever we want to use them.”

Anti-Ship Missiles for more than just the surface combat Navy

EXOCET MOBILE COASTAL battery uses four vehicles: a TOC, sensor unit, and two four-missile firing units, to put 8 AShMs on shore. It requires just 16 men. A similar concept could be used for the Naval Strike Missile or others. 

One of the facets of the current reboot of the Marines is that they are hanging up all of their armored (tank) battalions and a lot of their (tube) artillery batteries to field small and highly mobile expeditionary warfare missile batteries that would subtly appear on, say a forgotten backwater atoll, and control the sea around it for 100 miles or more in every direction. The nascent Marine Littoral Regiments are still being fleshed out, with an experimental unit formed in Hawaii last year. Nonetheless, LBASMs, or Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles, are on the menu.

Moving forward with the concept of more (anti-ship) missiles in more places, Big Blue is also weighing putting containerized Naval Strike Missiles on otherwise lightly armed ‘phibs of the “Gator Navy.”

“We have these magnificent 600-foot-long, highly survivable, highly LPD 17s,” said MGen Tracy W. King, director of expeditionary warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. “The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship. It’s not from the aspect of using them as a strike platform; it will drastically increase their survivability if the enemy has to honor that threat. My intent is to ensure that my desire to increase the lethality of LPDs doesn’t interfere with [Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Paul] Schlise’s efforts to increase lethality on LCSs.”

Finally, there is the concept (thanks for the tip, Philip), recently covered in the USNI’s Blog by LT. Andrew W. Corwell, U.S. Coast Guard, of the puddle pirates adding some batteries of coastal defense cruise missiles to their mix.

Fielding CDCMs provides the Coast Guard with a one-two punch as the service pivots to counter near-peer threats. First, CDCMs would provide the Coast Guard with a credible deterrent to potentially adversarial naval forces. Strategically located near major ports on each coast, a battery of U.S. Coast Guard CDCM Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) could defend against naval surface threats and be postured to respond to emergent homeland defense missions requiring more firepower than typically found aboard Cutters. Being road mobile would complicate adversarial targeting during a major conflict by enabling the CDCM batteries to operate from both prepared and field expedient positions along the coast while simultaneously providing the ability to surge additional missiles and launchers along anticipated threat vectors.

Second, the CDCMs would offer the Coast Guard an organic, rapidly deployable option to increase the lethality of cutters supporting combatant commanders. Designing the TELs to fit inside the hangers of Legend-class national security cutters (NSC), or the soon to be delivered Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters, integrate with the cutter’s fire-control systems, and fire from their flight deck would greatly increase the ability for cutters to contribute in a war-at-sea scenario, offset shortcomings in desired increases to U.S. fleet strength, and align with distributed lethality concepts.

And to tell you the truth, it all makes sense. The porcupine theory.

LCS finally gets some teeth

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) Oct. 1 (local date) during Pacific Griffin.

Pacific Griffin is a biennial exercise conducted in the waters near Guam aimed at enhancing combined proficiency at sea while strengthening relationships between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies.

“Today was a terrific accomplishment for USS Gabrielle Giffords crew and the Navy’s LCS class,” said Cmdr. Matthew Lehmann, commanding officer. “I am very proud of all the teamwork that led to the successful launch of the NSM.”

The NSM is a long-range, precision strike weapon that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles away. The stealthy missile flies at sea-skimming altitude, has terrain-following capability and uses an advanced seeker for precise targeting in challenging conditions.

Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia, said Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment sent a crystal clear message of continued U.S. commitment to maritime security in the region.

“LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night,” Tynch said. “We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”

The NSM aboard Gabrielle Giffords is fully operational and remains lethal. The weapon was first demonstrated on littoral combat ship USS Coronado in 2014. It meets and exceeds the U.S. Navy’s over-the-horizon requirements for survivability against high-end threats, demonstrated lethality, easy upgrades, and long-range strike capability.

Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment represents a milestone for the U.S. Navy and LCS lethality and marks the first time that an NSM has sailed into the Indo-Pacific region. The successful missile shoot demonstrates value for long-range anti-ship missiles.

Gabrielle Giffords, on its maiden deployment, arrived in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility Sept. 16, for a rotational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. This marks the first time two LCS have deployed to the Indo-Pacific region simultaneously. Gabrielle Giffords is the fifth LCS to deploy to U.S. 7th Fleet, following USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the currently-deployed USS Montgomery (LCS 8).

Gabrielle Giffords will conduct operations, exercises and port visits throughout the region as well as work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Its unique capabilities allow it to work with a broad range of regional navies and visit ports larger ships cannot access.

Littoral combat ships are fast, agile and networked surface combatants, optimized for operating in the near-shore environments. With mission packages allowing for tailored capabilities to meet specific mission needs and unique physical characteristics, LCS provides operational flexibility and access to a wider range of ports.

With that being said, I have an invite to check out the newest Independence-type LCS this weekend and will report more on that, later.

Inside the Helge Ingstad

Many naval shipwrecks are in deep water or in mud so nasty that even if in shallower depths, have visibility of about nil. Not so with the recently lost Helge Ingstad, which for now at least, is in the shallows of a crystal clear fjord in Norway at depths that enable small surface ROVs and scuba-equipped salvage work.

For those under a rock for the past month, HNoMS Helge Ingstad is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate of the Royal Norwegian Navy. On 8 November 2018, the frigate collided with the tanker Sola TS in Norwegian waters, was severely damaged in the collision and beached:

The cables didn’t hold and she slipped down the ledge where she rests today.

The Norwegian Navy this week released two videos from the wreck. One of them piloting the Blueye Pioneer underwater drone inside her hull, and another recovering Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launch canisters from her topside.

The NSM is a 13-foot-long, 900-pound anti-ship missile produced by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and it is being shopped by Raytheon in the U.S. to replace Harpoon on frigates and LCS vessels. The range is 100+ nm and it is optimized for use in so-called green or blue water. Nansen-class frigates tote eight of these. More on the NSM here.

Of note, Blueye is also a Norwegian company. More on the ROV, which only runs like $6K, here.

Harpoons and Perrys off Kauai

The recent RIMPAC 2018 exercise saw two notable sinkex operations, the first, the old LST USS Racine we have covered already.

The second, the decommissioned OHP-class frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41), was sent to on 19 July to the bottom of waters some 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauai.

Her sad, final plunge:

One of the youngest of her class, ex-McClusky was an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate commissioned in December 1983 and decommissioned in January 2015. The ship was named for Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, a naval aviator who led his squadrons of Douglass Dauntless dive bombers against a Japanese fleet during the famed attack on the island of Midway in June 1942. He went on to distinguish himself in subsequent actions during the war and again in the Korean War before retiring at the rank of rear admiral in 1956. The ship operated worldwide during her more than 30 years of service. During one deployment in 2002, her crew successfully intercepted a drug runner at sea hauling 75 bales of cocaine weighing nearly 4,000 pounds.

Notably, the first use of a sub-Harpoon in a generation was seen during the exercise when Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) loaded one of these unicorns and let it fly towards Racine.

The periscope footage, 30 secs:

Loading B-roll, 5 minutes:

30-sec compilation including the hit on Racine’s forward third:

In the end, though, there was one FFG-7 class vessel present at RIMPAC that had a better go of things. The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) participated on the other side of the gun line and on 2 August set sail back to Oz, intact.

If you are a fan of the USS Racine, you probably shouldn’t watch this footage

Live fire from aircraft, a submarine, and land assets participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise sank the long-decommissioned ex-USS Racine (LST-1191) on 12 July in the Pacific Ocean. Ex-Racine was sent to the bottom at the end by aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 192 (VFA-192) at 8:45 p.m. in waters 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauaʻi, Hawaii.

The SINKEX featured live firing of surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army, fired from Barking Sands. This marks the first time the U.S. Army and JGSDF have participated in a sinking exercise during RIMPAC as well as the first participation by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

A torpedo from an unnamed submarine is shown at the 5:40 mark breaking her back. You can see her distinctive bow doors in several scenes, as well as her 1970s-era twin 3″/50 dual purpose gun mounts, still installed.

Racine, an 8,700-ton Newport-class of Landing Ship, Tank, was commissioned in 1971, decommissioned on 2 October 1993 as the Navy was getting out of the LST business and, after a planned transfer to Peru fell through, was set aside for use as a target while in inactive reserve at Pearl Harbor. She earned one battle star for her Vietnam service.

According to the Navy:

Each SINKEX is required to sink the hulk in at least 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet) of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land. Surveys are conducted to ensure that people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.

Prior to the vessel being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process, including the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping, and reservoirs.

A U.S. Navy environmental, safety and health manager and a quality assurance supervisor inspect the environmental remediation conducted in preparation of a vessel’s use in a SINKEX. Upon completion of the environmental remediation, the manager and supervisor provide signed certification of the work in accordance with EPA requirements.