Navy Sinks Former Frigate USS Reuben James in Test of New Supersonic Anti-Surface Missile

March 7, 2016 6:01 PM - Updated: March 8, 2016 7:30 AM
USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship's aegis weapons system on June 19, 2016. US Navy Photo
USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system on June 19, 2014. US Navy Photo

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error a previous version of this post had the incorrect hull number for the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones. The ship is designated DDG-53 — not DDG-32. The designation DDG-32 was assigned to the decommissioned Forrest Sherman-class destroyer also named John Paul Jones.

The former frigate USS Reuben James (FFG-57) was sunk in January during a test of the Navy’s new anti-surface warfare (ASuW) variant of the Raytheon Standard Missile 6 (SM-6), company officials told USNI News on Monday.

The adaptation of the SM-6 was fired from guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) and hit James during the Jan. 18 test at the U.S. Pacific Missile Range Facility off the coast of Hawaii, a Raytheon spokeswoman told USNI News.

“The test was a demonstration of the U.S. Navy’s concept of ‘distributed lethality,’ employing ships in dispersed formations to increase the offensive might of the surface force and enabling future options for the joint force commander,” read a release from Raytheon.

News of the test follows the public announcement of the ASuW modification of the SM-6 in February by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

USS Reuben James (FFG-57) in 2012. US Navy Photo
USS Reuben James (FFG-57) in 2012. US Navy Photo

“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.”
The modification – part of a $2.9 billion missile purchase over the next five years – will give the Navy’s fleet of guided missile cruisers and destroyers a Mach 3.5 supersonic weapon with a range of more than 200 nautical miles.

Along with the recently announced modification to the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), the Navy is pushing more offensive capability in its large surface combatants after decades of not fielding a new ASuW capability in the fleet.

Now that the capability has been tested, the service will introduce the modified missile into Baseline 9 Arleigh Burke destroyers (DDG-51).

The target – Reuben James – was decommissioned in 2013 after 27 years of service, which included convoy duty during the Iran-Iraq War and a nine month deployment in 2002 and 2003.

In fiction, the ship was featured in the Tom Clancy and Larry Bond novel Red Storm Rising and (played by another frigate) in the filmed version of The Hunt for Red October.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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