Home » Budget Industry » SECDEF Carter Confirms Navy Developing Supersonic Anti-Ship Missile for Cruisers, Destroyers


SECDEF Carter Confirms Navy Developing Supersonic Anti-Ship Missile for Cruisers, Destroyers

Launch of a SM-6. US Navy Photo

Launch of a SM-6. US Navy Photo

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed the Navy was developing a modification to the Raytheon Standard Missile 6 that will give the service a supersonic anti-ship weapon to reach a target more than 200 nautical miles away.

“We are going to create a brand-new capability,” Carter told reporters in San Diego on Wednesday. “We’re modifying the SM-6 so that in addition to missile defense, it can also target enemy ships at sea at very long ranges.”

With a top speed of Mach 3.5, the SM-6 will extend the lethal range of the CRUDES force well beyond the reach of the current Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon anti-surface missile – first introduced in the late 1970s.

The modified SM-6 – part of a $2.9 billion missile buy over the next five years — will be the largest new anti-ship capability in decades onboard the service’s fleet of guided missiles and cruisers and indicative of the Navy’s push to load its ships with more offensive firepower – codified in the “distributed lethality” philosophy pushed forward by service surface leaders in 2015.

“We haven’t been slightly leaning forward for a very long time. When you start to see the language start to change the [Chief of Naval Operations] has changed his tone about China – now they’re a peer adversary,” an industry official told USNI News last month.
“As the tone in the Navy changes from a force that will get fired upon before we take action, will we move forward and start taking action in different environments? And what effects can go do that?”

As the Navy orients the cruiser and destroyer force to take on higher end adversaries — like China and Russia — the emphasis will be how to maximize the use of the difficult-to-reload vertical launch system cells of the CRUDES force.

aegissm-61

“What this shows is the Navy is looking for flexibility in their weapons and when you have a certain number of missile tubes in your ships,” Eric Wertheim — naval analyst and author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World — told USNI News on Thursday.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise because the SM-2 had [the capability]. It just shows they’re looking for flexibility in their systems.”

Prior to Wednesday the Navy and Raytheon have been coy about the anti-surface potential of the SM-6. Its predecessor the SM-2 has its own anti-surface mode.

When USNI News asked the question of a senior defense official last year if the Navy was creating an anti-surface variant the SM-6 the answer was, “you will never get anyone to confirm that.”

While the news is out, the question remains as to what modifications the missile will need to be effective against the Raytheon officials told USNI News last month during the Surface Navy Association that work underway on the Block IA program.

“The big difference we can talk about is that it adds a GPS capability,” Raytheon said.

The SM-6 is designed to take out aircraft and cruise missile — and in limited scenarios ballistic missiles — which requires a smaller warhead class than the 500-pound class warhead found on the current Harpoons. It’s unclear if the missile will need warhead modifications.

Another lingering question is if the anti-surface mode of the SM-6 will be a networked weapon like the anti-air warfare mode in the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counter-Air (NIFC-CA) concept.

NIFC-CA can combine the targeting data from a Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and send targeting information to a SM-6 to intercept an air target beyond the range of the cruiser or destroyer firing the weapon.

“Does that mean an E-2 can guide a SM-6 to a bunch of swarming surface craft at long distances?” asked Wertheim.

  • sferrin

    What a waste. Those things don’t grow on trees. If they wanted supersonic they should have gone with LRASM-B. Oh, right, too hard.

    • Ken N

      No..going supersonic is not hard. Going supersonic stealthy is. Otherwise your a huge glowing hot red target for interceptors..

      • sferrin

        That’s not why they cancelled it. They cancelled it because it was “too risky”, i.e. “whoa, we got nobody who’s up to speed on that propulsion system”. Also, I hope you don’t think SM-6 is going to be nice and chilly.

        • Ken N

          I’ll have to disagree. There’s nothing incredibly difficult about making a supersonic cruise missile. The Russians have had them for decades and we routinely use sea skimming maneuvering supersonic drones for target practice (GQM-163 coyote). I believe the LRASM-B was abandoned because they want the LRASM do to some pretty sophisticated things which will require some pretty sophisticated electronics which would be subject to failure at supersonic speeds. They also want the LRASM to be able to loiter and maneuver around threats..things that would be tough at supersonic speeds. The powers that be feel that a very smart stealthy sub-sonic ASM is much more of a threat then a non stealthy supersonic one.

          And of course the SM-6 also presents target…but the SM-6 is no where near the size of a BrahMos or Granit.

          • sferrin

            Hmm, for some reason my post got deleted (had a link in it so that could be why. Short answer:

            1. Yes, it was too hard. It’s easy for the Russians because they never lost the ability. The last ramjet the US developed was that for ASALM, in the late 70s. LRASM-B was to be based on this.
            2. Coyote is based on ALVRJ which goes back to the 60s. Not exactly “new”.
            3. Both LRASM-A and LRASM-B were suppose to be developed. They weren’t in competition with each other. As soon as they started to dig a little deeper they went, “whoops, we don’t know how to do LRASM-B” and cancelled it. The fig leaf they used was, “we want to be able to focus on LRASM-A, i.e. the easier one”.

          • Ken N

            I’d like to see that link. Try and post it again and leave out the “”www”” and the “.com” or “.net”. Not saying your wrong but I find it hard to believe that building a supersonic ASM is too “hard” for us…And if we really wanted a simple supersonic ASM.. why couldn’t we just build off the coyote??

          • sferrin

            Just google ALVRJ designation systems It will be the first return. And why not the Coyote? It’s 31 feet long at launch so it wouldn’t fit any current launch systems. It has low range and very low payload. You’d be hard pressed to find a WORSE idea for an antiship missile.

          • Ken N

            I didn’t mean literally make the coyote into an ASCM. That aside we’ll have to agree to disagree. You think we’re not making a supersonic ASM because its to hard.I think its because they see a lot more promise in a subsonic one. Have a good day.

          • old guy

            We did not one, but 3 in SEA 03R, in 1977-80

          • sferrin

            Could you be more specific?

          • old guy

            SORRY, bit unlike our former Sec’y of State, if I were to reveal classified info I would spend my few remaining years in Leavenworth.

          • Secundius

            @ sferrin.

            If I had to Venture a Guess, it was a Communica from R. McQuillan from the Institute of Geological Studies. Of “Tests” that were performed in the North Sea, Irish Sea and English Channel during 1977 through 1980…

  • Ctrot

    What sort of damage, if any, could an SM-6 warhead do to a warship??

    • Ken N

      mission kill

      • Ctrot

        How? Lucky hit to a key radar etc?

        • NavySubNuke

          Phased array panels are pretty fragile and also quite large – it would hardly take a “lucky” hit to put a large number holes in them. Especially since the SM-6 uses a fragmentation warhead that explodes at a distance – not a unitary warhead.

          • Daniel Shenise

            Plus the physics of the missile itself hitting the target at Mach-3ish from above.

  • Dullasapig

    good news

    • Michael Rich

      wow, this is the first time I have seen you post something other than your normal “deindustrialization” spam.

      • NavySubNuke

        I honestly considered reporting that his/her account was hacked. It is almost like there is a real person typing that.

        • Michael Rich

          Hahaha.

  • Pat Patterson

    Just reverse engineer one of the Russian missiles. I’m sure we could get a few from the Indians.

  • Ken N

    This seems like a no brainer especially if it can be done relatively cheaper. While this certainly won’t negate the need for the LRASM it should make the SM-6 deadly against ‘small’ boats and provide a good chance for a ‘mission kill’ on larger ships. Its good to have options..

    • sferrin

      Yeah, because what we really need to do is use up our limited quantity of $10 million missiles on “small boats” instead of, you know, using them to defend ships from air attack.

      • Michael Rich

        It doesn’t mean it will primary mission will be that, it’s simply flexibility to do so if it was necessary. Kind of like the tomahawk, it’s primary mission is still land attack but with the upgrade they can use it for anti-ship if needed.

      • NavySubNuke

        Like all things it depends on the circumstances. It seems to me like it is always better to have a tool available than to not have a tool at all.
        If the small boat is trucking a small yield but large sized nuke (i.e. the kind of thing Iran and North Korea can produce at this point) towards you or the battle group it is certainly worth $10M.
        Also could be useful if you are steaming to the rescue of a hospital ship, oiler, or even a merchant vessel being attacked by small boats but you are so far away you think they would be over run before you got there.
        And those are just the small boat examples. This doesn’t even include the idea of mission killing the phased array radar on a guided missile destroyer….

        • sferrin

          True. I see it more as a “just in case we’re out of options” though, where as it seems it’s being promoted as a primary solution here. RIM-66/67 have always had a secondary surface attack role. If that’s all they’re saying here then I agree. If they’re doing this in lieu of an honest-to-god supersonic antiship missile I think this is the wrong approach.

          • NavySubNuke

            From all else I have read this is just another tool in the tool bag and is in no way meant to be the “only” solution. But I agree with you – if this is the “only” solution I have a real problem with it as well.

    • Secundius

      @ Ken N.

      Yeah, but Let’s not Fall Into the Same “Fallacy” of Putting Our Egg’s Into One Basket, AGAIN…

  • James Bowen

    The Harpoon warhead is too small as it is. We need something supersonic that is a lot bigger than the SM-6. We need at least a 1000 pound, preferably a 2000 pound, warhead.

    • Michael Rich

      A 2000lb warhead is ridiculously big, which would cut the range in half at least, and it would negate it’s maneuvering in terminal phase making it a whole lot less survivable. The LRASM already has a 1000lb warhead which is more than enough, they were even considering reducing it to 500lb to fit more fuel which would give us much more range.

      • James Bowen

        Punch is more important than range. Surface clashes are historically short range encounters anyway. Aircraft and subs are best used for longer range attacks against enemy ships. Rather than relying on stealth and maneuverability, we need to rely on power and overwhelming numbers of missiles.

        • Michael Rich

          “historically”

          Yea no dip, almost all formal naval encounters have been during World War II, or slight skirmishes in places like the Persian Gulf. Now Russia, China, and really any modern military has missiles with range longer than 300 miles. What does punch matter if you are not close enough to use it.

          Naval battles are no longer gun battles, they are almost always going to be fought with missiles.

          • James Bowen

            Yes, and anti-ship missiles are not incredibly long range weapons. Russia and China also have missiles with 2000 pound warheads, or close to it.

            Surface ships would, in most circumstances, not be charged with delivering the initial blows to an enemy fleet, no more that destroyers’ torpedoes were charged with doing so during during World War II. What they need is firepower in case the do find themselves in a surface to surface clash. There really is no point in worrying too much about stealth since the whereabouts of surface ships would likely already be known in such a battle. What they are going to need is the ability to hit hard and overwhelm enemy defenses.

          • Michael Rich

            “Yes, and anti-ship missiles are not incredibly long range weapons”

            Oh really? You think so?

            Brahmos: 290km, 440lb
            Kh-35: 300km, 320lb
            P-800: 600km, 551lb
            New LRASM: 930km, 1,000lb

            Just because you have a big warhead doesn’t mean it’s good, what matters most is it’s armor piercing capability. Which the LRASM has both.

            “Russia and China also have missiles with 2000 pound warheads, or close to it.”

            Do some research next time, neither have missiles with that big of warheads anymore.

            “Surface ships would, in most circumstances, not be charged with delivering the initial blows to an enemy fleet, no more that destroyers’ torpedoes were charged with doing so during during World War II. What they need is firepower in case the do find themselves in a surface to surface clash.” Which we have plenty, next LRASM, (SM-6 is now modified for the mission if the need arises), and the main gun are more than enough.

          • Horn

            “Just because you have a big warhead doesn’t mean it’s good, what matters
            most is it’s armor piercing capability. Which the LRASM has both.”

            Exactly! All you need is 200lb of explosives going off in an ammunition hold. Mission overkill.

          • James Bowen

            An ammunition hold is a lucky hit though. We should never count on our hits being lucky hits. It is best to use the working assumption that most of our shots are going to be misses, therefore we want the hits to be as destructive as possible.

          • James Bowen

            Oh yeah, how about this one.

            Russia
            P-700 Granit (SSN-19 Shipwreck): Range 625 km, Speed Mach 2.5+, Warhead, Nuclear 500 kt or 1,653 pound high explosive (okay, not quite 2000 lbs, but close enough)

            Looks like you are the one who needs to do more research about what the Russians and others are deploying. Its range is less than the LRASM, but other than that its puts the LRASM to shame (the LRASM also being a very slow missile). We should aim to incorporate something like the Shipwreck Missile.

            Right now, the firepower of our surface ships is a joke. They can carry 8 Harpoons, which are slow and have too small of a warhead. They usually don’t even carry a full load of those. By the way, the LRASM doesn’t enter service until 2019.

          • old guy

            Good analysis, but the system needs a high trajectory and a hypersonic terminal dive,

      • sferrin

        They should make a stretched variant of LRASM/JASSM to use the full length of the cell. Swap out the VL-Asroc booster for the one on Tomahawk and you could stretch JASSM by 4 feet. That’s a lot of fuel.

        • Michael Rich

          I think it was made the size that it is so it could be air launched. Building a specialized variant for surface launch would have cost more. I could be wrong though.

    • NavySubNuke

      In modern engagements mission kills – especially mission kills that blind the targets radar – are in some ways more important than actually sinking the ship. If we can poke the eyes out of all of their guided missile destroyers the rest is just mop up.
      The ship is already going to be carrying a bushel of SM-6s for self defense – this is just another tool in the tool bag to be used if we need it.

      • James Bowen

        I have always been skeptical of the idea of “mission kills”. Since we never know how well our weapons are going to perform under combat conditions, we should make hits count as much as possible, i.e. be as destructive as possible.

        • NavySubNuke

          I agree – but this isn’t about not doing something —- this is about adding a capability to something we already have. And as long as it is being done at a reasonable cost and isn’t cause for canceling other more capable anti-ship missiles such as LRASM than not only do I not have a problem with it – I think it is a great idea.

          • James Bowen

            Good point.

    • sferrin

      A 2-stage ATACMs with unitary warhead. (Make a new 6-cell module for the MK41 VLS. The Mk57 VLS should be able to fit one in each cell.)

    • old guy

      Sorry, but that is nonsense. Sheffield was destroyed with a 55gallon drum of cooking oil.

      • James Bowen

        Sheffield was a small ship made of plastic and aluminum. That will change very quickly should there ever be another naval war and the value of armor is re-discovered, just like the Army re-discovered the value of armor in Iraq.

        Also remember that only about 33% of the Exocets that Argentina fired at their targets were hits, resulting in 1 sinking (Sheffield).

        • old guy

          SORRY, BUT YOU ARE WRONG AGAIN. She was steel-hulled, aluminum superstructure, wood-paneled interior.
          The missile went through the kitchen, igniting the oil and out the other side, unexploded. The stem to stern companionways acted like a conduit to ignite all the wood, melt some Al, burn the rest of the ship.Very little plastic.

          • James Bowen

            You basically prove my point. She was not constructed of the most sturdy or flame-resistant materials. Remember also that two Exocets struck the U.S.S. Stark, and she survived.

            Mark 48 ADCAP torpedoes would break most ships in half. While it is difficult to make ASCM’s as destructive as torpedoes, they should still be designed with that kind of destructive power in mind.

          • old guy

            AGREE. The Stark is as good an example of survivability as the Sheffield was a bad one. The luck was that Stark hits were not at critical spots. With precision targeting (e.g. laser scan) the the lethality requirement is greatly reduced.

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            Didn’t the rocket motors add to the damage.

          • old guy

            They were gone

          • Secundius

            Sailboater.

            Memory is a “Little Off”, but believe the Iraqi Exocet’s were Air-Launched Models AM.39’s…

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            The Brits like there wood work and Piano’s

          • Secundius

            @ Sailboater.

            The PROBLEM the “Brit’s” had with the Exocet, WASN’T the Missile. It WAS with the Fire Control System! The EXACT SAME SYSTEM the French Had, and THE EXACT SAME SYSTEM the French SOLD to the Argentines. Fire Control System, SCANNED the EXOCET, and Read The AS “Friendly”. And PROMPTLY Ignored the Incoming Missiles as a THREAT. “FRATRICIDE” by the Enemy…

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            Gee whiz, Lighten up, were is you sense of Naval Tradition and fun. A pint of beer and a singalong on the piano at a Brit Naval Mess ashore, my visits aboard HMS were quite insightful but that was before internet streaming music and email. now we didn’t have a piano on the our ships but some of the guys had instruments and off hours they would get permission to play a little rock and roll, country & western plus that good old Motown. Always made for a relaxing time. The navy got rid of there bands on most ships by the early 70’s but the old Inchon still had a Band Room. I think the Carriers lost there bands after Vietnam was over.

          • Secundius

            @ Sailboater.

            I Wasn’t Shouting at You or anyone Else, Just Using “Cap’s” to “Point Out”. Royal Navy, Planned for as Much as they Could See. But WERE Blinded by what “Sat Out” In Plain Sight.

            I Like Classical Jazz, like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith, Fats Waller…

          • old guy

            I never heard that the FIRE CONTROL system identified an INCOMING missile as “FRIENDLY”. Unbelievable.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            The 55-Gallon Drum of Vegetable Oil, is also plausible! I’ve seen a 55-Gallon Drum of Tomato Paste, Explode. Removing the Rear Section and Kitchen Area of a Sizable Restaurant in the Process…

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            now as I understand it, when a missle like the exocet his a ship the motor does not fall off into the ocean, It falls apart and then you have solid rocket fuel burning that that just adds fuel to the fire.

          • old guy

            I investigated the casualty for NAVSEA and the evidence indicated that the missile exited intact and it was the rocket flame what tgnited the cooking oil. Somewhat bizarre but the stem to stern companionway was the design flaw that caused the loss of the ship. I also determined that the claim that “The Aluminum structure BURNED” was false. It did melt in spots and weakened in others, but no burn.

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            Having been exposed to A few shipboard fires. I have seen both Aluminum and Steel decks, bulkheads and overheads melt. It is not a pretty sight. Now paint, tile on the deck and Dust always add to the fire. Plastics from computer components make for a very toxic environment. Good information, I remember from Fire Fighting training that Terrazo will burn but I can’t remember the temperture level is.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Amazing, especially since how many other nations have a super sonic Anti ship missles

    • old guy

      Please read my input on S/S birds.

  • James Bowen

    So what if its old? Except for electronics, which can easily be updated, weapons technology really hasn’t changed that much since the 70’s. “Last generation” is nothing but a fancy catch phrase. A Mach 2.5 missile is going to be much harder to intercept than a low subsonic missile by virtue of its speed. A shower of these missiles is going to be much harder to stop than single or a few smaller, slower, stealthy missiles.

    It also looks like the research you did was inadequate. The Shipwreck is still operational, as is the P-500 Bazalt, a Mach-2.5, 2200 lb, armor-piecing missile based on Slava-class cruisers. I’ll have you know that I am a submarine officer and know very well what I am talking about.

    • old guy

      You don’t need to destroy it, only deflect it with a small hit on any fin. shotgun ASM. We have at least 3 on the books.

    • disqus_zommBwspv9

      I agree with you, even and old Carrier Killer like the Shipwreck without modernization would reek real destruction if two dozen or so were launch at the Nimitz and 20 percent hit. at least one getting into a hanger bay, one near CIC another near the bow. Might not sink her but she would be out of action. And don’t forget the ASM’s and sub launch missles that would be thrown at carrier.

      • James Bowen

        Thanks. I don’t know where some got this idea that speed and destructive power are liabilities when it comes to weaponry.

  • James Bowen

    They may be bringing newer missiles into service, but they have also retained these older, more powerful missiles in service, particularly on Oskar-class SSGN’s, Kirov-class battlecruisers, and Slava-class cruisers. At least some of their their older powerful missiles, such as the Bazalt, also have armor-piercing capability, so that does not give us any kind of unique advantage with the LRASM either.

    Yes, I am a submarine officer, and I know very well about what I am talking about. A shower of fast, heavy missiles is going to be much harder to stop than a few slow, ostensibly stealthy missiles at long range.

  • old guy

    EASILY OVERCOME. That’s why we did’t bother before.
    1. SS missiles can’t maneuver well, so they are easily brought down with WOW system.
    2. A shotgun response is almost 100% effective.
    3. Only way they work is high trajectory, hypersonic dive.. sounds good but not really.

    • Secundius

      @ old guy.

      NOT EVEN “Hypersonic” Terminal Dive. Speed Rapidly Falls-Off in Denser Atmosphere. Supersonic at BEST, but NOT Hypersonic…

      • old guy

        Short burst hypersonic terminal, with a 25# warhead is reasonable. We designed one in 1979

        • disqus_zommBwspv9

          Amen

  • old guy

    No, TiO2 was ALPHA

    • Secundius

      @ old guy.

      Sorry, I Thought It Was! I was talking with someone on another Website, and he mentioned a “Titanium Oxide” Experiment. That took place in 1979, I just thought it “Might” be the SAME Test…

      • old guy

        ALPHA was (and is) a Titanium submarine far ahead of anything we have, structurally. It is welded by a traveling vacuum Electron Beam device that results in a 98+% E of the parent material. in the weld zone, When asked by COMNAVSEA, in 1978, how long it would take to match it, our materials engineers said, “25 years”, so it was abandoned.

        • Secundius

          @ old guy.

          Are you sure about that? Before being Drafted, I was a Welder in the Iron Worker’s Union #79. And remember reading an Article in a Welder Magazine Publication. Of someone named Mara (?) Master (?), applying for a Patent at the US Patent Office, for a Patent of a Spike-Free Electron Welding in the Summer of 1972…

          • old guy

            Pretty sure. Before I went to work for Navy, I had a small, advanced manufacturing company. We EB welded all of the C-5A’s Landing gears which were made of Crucible Tri-Cent steel (E=300,000) which Lockheed could not do. We constructed a 6’X6’X15 foot vacuum chamber, pumped down to high vacuum using SCIACKY EB heads to weld the LADISCH forgings. Never had a failure. Mel Schwartz’s “Modern Joining Methods” details it.

  • TomG

    This really isn’t that big of a deal. It helps, certainly, but it’s more of a tourniquet than a stitch.
    If they adapted the Tomahawk, they would have a long range anti-ship missile 25 years ago. The Russians have had supersonic anti-ship missiles for decades.
    Now, if they modified the SM-6 for Air-to Air carriage aboard a B-1R… THAT would get my attention

  • Dwight Looi

    The 140 lbs warhead of the SM-6 will not sink anything destroyer class vessel — especially since it is not a penetrating warhead. However, it is still the equivalent of two 155 mm High Explosive artillery shells. Taking one will do really bad things to a ship’s sensitive articles like radars and other goodies on the super structure. And, who says that in the kind of pinch which will see a US major surface combatant resort to an SM-6 against a ship, they will launch one? Land half a dozen on any destroyer and it is unlikely to be in in much of a fighting shape.