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

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

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.

  • sferrin

    FFG-7 were small, lightly armed ships. Let’s see what it would do to a Spruance (if they haven’t all already been sunk that is).

    Also, click-bait title.

    • VGA

      The title is literally a description of the event .. what do you mean?

      • Bill

        I suspect he means that one might have expected to see pictures of the target and actual hit.

        • sferrin

          No, if I see “New Supersonic Anti-Surface Missile” I expect to see a new supersonic anti-surface missile. Not an existing SAM being used as a very poor substitute for an anti-surface missile.

          • Guest

            Bill’s explanation makes more sense. See Curtis Conway’s comments, and those that follow, below.

            If a $10M SAM actually sank a $750M ship, it’s hardly a waste. Without either pictures, video, or a description of the damage (as is usually offered in a SINKEX AAR; it’s the whole point) we don’t really know anything of value.

          • Bill

            My apologies for trying to put words in your mouth.

          • sferrin

            No offense taken.

      • sferrin

        “New Supersonic Anti-Surface Missile”
        It is not a new supersonic anti-surface missile. It’s a SAM used in a surface attack role. Completely different. The title leads one to believe the USN finally has a bonified supersonic antiship missile like Brahmos or Sizzler. (Which is was meant to do so people would rush to see what it is.) It does not. It actually demonstrated the worst way to do an antiship missile – use a very expensive, soft-hitting weapon. If they’d said, “US Navy wastes $10 million SAM shooting at a ship” I guarantee you it wouldn’t have got the clicks. This whole exercise is nothing but a fig leaf in a weak attempt to cover the USN’s sorry situation in the antiship missile department. In short, Standard missiles have been able to shoot at surface ships for nearly half a century. This is nothing new but is presented as such.

  • Curtis Conway

    I bet you every hatch was open and watertight integrity was not in effect.

    • Marjus

      Yeah there is no way they sunk it with SM-6 alone even with open hatches, cut out holes and such. SM-6 can’t hit below and I would say near the waterline for one, it has no warhead for two, and three, well it can cause damage but not enough to sink a large warship. There had to have been other weapons/tests involved, or demolition charges. For blinding and scarring an enemy warship, I can see half a dozen mach 3 SM-6s descending on a target as being very useful.

      • Curtis Conway

        Participated in too many SINKEXs to know that watertight integrity and compartmentalization REALLY WORKS. What the Navy is putting out now on LCS Survivability is pure BS.

        • draeger24

          so where did the missile hit…I remember a sinkex on an old oiler where nearly 50 rounds of 5in were put into her and it did not sink…they called in EOD to attach more explosives.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Unless the thing punched right through the bottom of the hull, 3,500lbs of missile at 2,400mph…Then again we’ll probably find out later it was “deemed” sunk and then put under by EOD after.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I’m curious about the range of the target, and thus how much propellant was left on impact. Nothing on God’s green earth will extinguish it and the temperatures could make for a big pool of slag cutting through the bulkheads and hull. Then again if it was burned out before striking it’s just a big empty tube with a 150lb Blast/Frag warhead…

          • draeger24

            yes, but being as it is an SM, does it go to altitude, fly, then slam straight down? Now that would be a site to see. If it is simply flying low level like an EXOCET, you won’t get a sinking without a sustained fire from combustibles onboard.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            This is one of the details we won’t know. My assumption would be that the SM-6 attack profile is high altitude vertical dive (which would maximize the damage to the target’s superstructure done by the blast/frag warhead and the kinetic force of the rocket body, and unspent fuel – if any), but as the SM-6 is designed to hit low flying ASCMs it likely has the flight stability for a relatively low attitude attack profile too, though at 2400mph you aren’t going below 100ft (and likely higher) without risking a catastrophic failure)

          • Secundius

            About 20% of the Total Weight of the Missile, is “Blead-Off” during Launch Phase and in Flight. But ~130.65-Megajoules or ~96,480,000ft/lbs. of Kinetic Energy is Released at Point of Impact. Or simply Put, another ~69-pounds of TNT Explosive is added to the Existing 140-pound HE Warhead…

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I love when you math at me. So sexy. Thanks!

          • Secundius

            Had a Stroke in 2010, Neurologist told me to Keep My Mind Active to Prevent Another. I’m a Confirmation Reader, and it Helps a Lot…

          • Ken Adams

            Letting air in from the top rarely sinks a ship. Better to let water in from the bottom.

          • draeger24

            um…if there is now where for the air to go, you won’t sink…didn’t they teach you that at the Boat School? LOL…just kiddin….

          • Curtis Conway

            Most SINKEXs are good target practice for things that hit above the waterline (radar, visual, by hand Kentucky Wind-age). gotta put holes in most of the compartments. THEN you work on the waterline. Once main machinery spaces are penetrated things get a bit more exciting. there have been ships blown clean in half and the bow or stern was separate and still afloat. If enough watertight integrity is breached to permit the steel and water to outweigh the remaining displacement, then down she goes.

          • Secundius

            @ Sandy.

            The Actual “Test” Was NEVER Meant to Sink the Ship, Just To See if the SM-6 Could Actually Hit The Ship. Warhead was “The Standard Fragmentation Round’…

          • draeger24

            yep, but curiosity has the better of me as to its trajectory….

          • Secundius

            Ballistic Trajectory. 108,267.7-feet Maximum Altitude, with a Near Terminal Dive on the Target Ship. Probably 89(deg) of Vertical…

          • draeger24

            Nice! That’ll do it! Even without a warhead, that would be a kinetic nightmare for a ship….

          • Secundius

            Agreed! Can’t make the Missile too heavy, without throwing off the Center-of Gravity. A 90(deg) of Vertical, is Possible. Margin of Error, would Have To Be “Extremely Small”…

          • Secundius

            I think a Crystalline Solid or Amorphous Solid, would make a Better Warhead. A Near Vertical Kinetic Impact, would turn Either Substances into a High-Energy Plasma, Cutting a Super Heated Hole Down to the Keel of the Ship…

        • CuddlyCobra

          I am oscillating between rage and sadness. Survivability, ability to fight and the welfare of sailors are not valued anymore.

        • Lazarus

          The purpose of Navy sinkex’s is to test weapons and not ship survivability. What the Navy has reported on LCS is correct. Sorry you cannot accept that.

          Reuben James was not likely sunk by SM-6 alone, but was probably allowed to sink/was deliberately sunk as part of the exercise.

      • Secundius

        If they Swap Out the Fragmentation Warhead with a Harpoon High-Explosive Warhead. It Can Be Done, QUITE Easily…

  • James Bowen

    We need a missile that is both supersonic and has a large warhead.

    • sferrin

      Better buy Russian, Chinese, or Indian because the US is the Keystone Cops in that dept.

      • James Bowen

        Unfortunately you are probably right. We could likely make quicker progress by obtaining and reverse engineering an SS-N-19 or something along those lines.

        • sferrin

          If it were up to me I’d have got Fasthawk into service ASAP instead of wasting decades chasing unicorns.

          • johnbull

            This isn’t the perfect weapon, but when you consider that at present we don’t have any anti-ship missiles in service except the ancient Harpoon, at least this is a start. At least it gives us a faster, longer range weapon to use, and it’s just a modification of something we already use.

          • HellfireRacer

            The Harpoon is not that “ancient” as it has been upgraded many times over including range, lethality, accuracy, terminal attack options, in flight guidance, etc..It is just as, or even more, effective then most of the NATO SSMs presently in service.

          • sferrin

            Harpoon was developed in the 70s. Nearly half a century ago. I think that qualifies as “ancient”.

          • HellfireRacer

            Then the SM6 would be ancient since its origins started in the 1960s RIM-66/67 series, or how about the F-15 and F-16 and F/A-18s with 1970s origins? How about the AGM-65 Maverick with 1970s origins? How about the AIM-9 which has been upgraded since the 1950s?

            Apparently weapon system upgrades are just something you care to ignore. I would also note, SSMs are not always just about speed, altitude, and warhead.. but with you being an apparent SAM/SSM expert you would know that already right? If I am correct about your position on this topic, then not a single sea-skimming slow flying SSM would be worth much and all the NATO militaries have just been wasting their time according to your expertise.


          • sferrin

            “Then the SM6 would be ancient since its origins started in the 1960s RIM-66/67 series, or how about the F-15 and F-16 and F/A-18s with 1970s origins? How about the AGM-65 Maverick with 1970s origins? How about the AIM-9 which has been upgraded since the 1950s?”

            Apples and oranges. The only thing common between SM-6 and RIM-67 is the shape of the upper stage. The same cannot be said of Harpoon. Furthermore the performance and abilities of SM-6 vs RIM-67 are night and day. The same cannot be said of today’s Harpoon vs the original model. Same warhead, same speed, same maneuver capability. (And face it, Harpoon was a Band-Aid the day the first one rolled off the line, and not competitive to what the Soviets had even back then.)

          • HellfireRacer


          • HellfireRacer


          • HellfireRacer

            Replied to in a new threat post above..

            Topic; Two points.. weapon updates, and why the USN likely prefered not to have big fat heavy AShMs..


          • James Bowen

            Fasthawk? I am not sure what this is. Please inform me.

  • Kev789

    Does anyone know the angle of incidence upon impact? Is this a top down hit with a big hole from kinetic energy?

  • HellfireRacer

    A few notes,

    * No warship needs to be sunk in modern combat, this has been a fact since the age of fighting sail. Knocking a ship out of the fight (AKA Mission Kill) is often far more then enough to remove it from a rapidly evolving war that will likely end long before it can be repaired – especially a modern war that will probably be over in days or weeks. Any warship that can’t keep up or be of any tactical effectiveness would likely be left behind.

    * Having a “large” warhead.. is not required, never has been. Even major calibre guns had warheads of only about ~5-15% of their body weight (depending on type – EX: a 2,700lb AP shell would have only about 135lb of explosive filler, less then a typical SM later model missile), the rest of the damage was all done by kinetic energy and shrapnel.

    * The Soviets had large warheads mostly because they figured they would lose many “vampires” before they would hit a target due to malfunction, failure to find targets, or being shot down by the buckets – and we had numerous CVs (and for some time a few BBs), they did not. A trade off was that bigger warheads, which required a bigger missile airframe, also meant a bigger SAM target. Most of their more modern weapon systems actually have smaller warheads compared to their massive “drone” type missiles of the Cold War.

    * The Soviet warships with all of their weapons, flammables, poor damage control and construction, and electronics were very likely to catch fire and possibly even have considerable secondary explosions even from smaller warhead impacts. This is not even counting the fact that considerable damage has been done during Cold War naval engagements with smaller warheads knocking ships out of the fight, in some cases the weapons never even detonated their warheads for various reasons and still caused a ship to be crippled.

    * A missile impact would include the warhead (which for the SM series was increased in later production models on forward), remaining fuel, and kinetic energy – which in this case would be considerable.

    * Many weapon “tests” are kept mostly secret for a variety of reasons.

    * Considering one of those FFGs was very nearly sunk by an single elderly M-08 Russian built mine (around 170lb of explosive) and another was disabled by 2 MM38 SSM low velocity impacts (360+lb warhead – one of which did not explode), the thought of the FFG sinking from a high kinetic impact is not impossible as later RIM-67s have 137lb or larger warheads (the SM-6 warhead is very possibly even larger and more destructive) weigh about the same (estimated without booster) as the MM38, and fly at ~3.5x (or greater) faster speeds. Also, I would not doubt that the SM-6 has a delayed action fuze that detonates after the hull has been penetrated with a higher angle of impact then a typical SSM flight profile and could possibly blow out the bottom of the hull of such a small warship. Internal detonations magnify the explosive power of a weapon impact by several times over.

    Just some thoughts to consider..


    • @USS_Fallujah

      Shame we won’t know any of the details, like what was the attack profile, what was the range, and what was the RJ’s ship state. I’m very curious if the SM-6 is capable of a low altitude flight profile with “popup” or if it must fly to high altitude and dive straight down on it’s target….

      • HellfireRacer

        Chances are it would be a diving hit.. lower profiles eat up more range and missile fuel, reduces the kinetic energy of the impact, and also reduces the odds of keel damage. Either way, it would be a very difficult target for enemy defenses to engage at that rate of speed – much like a fast moving bullet hitting a faster moving bullet. Anything short of a rapid response CIWS gun or high tech missile system would have virtually no chance of of hitting the inbound – and even those odds would likely be problematic.

        RJs ship state.. obviously unmanned, but if the damage was severe enough it would not likely matter much. The idea is to test the damage caused by the impact and blast – whether it sank the ship outright or not would not really matter. Even ships with split keels could float for a while. If the ship suffered enough damage to be disabled (mission killed).. then it would be a success as that is all that is really needed for modern naval combat. Sinking is just a bonus. In many scenarios most combatants would not even know if they hit or damaged each other outside of visual range without some method of confirmation to start with.

        • @USS_Fallujah

          I’ve seen enough SinkEX to know putting any ship under when it’s sealed up tight is a hard proposition, even w/o fire suppression etc. That Carter clearly states the ship was sunk by the SM-6 says either they had her wide open to avoid the need for multiple shots or follow up by EOD OR it’s damned more deadly than one would expect. If the target was at short range and the SM-6 had much of the solid propellant still unused….that makes for a crazy amount of heat that would create a slag pool that could eat right through the bulkheads and Hull, but as I said, we’ll likely never know the details.

          • HellfireRacer

            I think a lot of people forget that the warhead is only one part of the overall damage equation.. and not always the most important part. AP shells of WW2 often did as much damage through kinetic energy and shock as they did with penetrating hulls of ships. Missiles that hit ships often did more damage with their remaining fuel then the warheads either not detonating or not doing significant blast damage during Cold War engagements.

            Now considering the SM-6 which has the kinetic force of a 1,500+lb Mach 3.5+ missile screaming down from above.. no matter what ship your on, short of maybe a CVN or BB, that will cause some significant damage vs a mostly unarmored ship. The Fitz X missile of WW2 weighed about the same and sank the BB Roma and crippled the CR Savannah – granted it had an AP warhead penetrator and 705lb of explosive – but those ships were far larger and better protected and that missile only flew at 770mph.

            IMHO.. doesn’t matter to me if they sank the RJ or not.. I am fairly sure that type of ship would not have been in any fighting condition after that severe of an impact, and that is all that matters.


          • sferrin

            “Now considering the SM-6 which has the kinetic force of a 3,000+lb (more then the”

            Uh, wrong. Most of that 3000lbs is fuel which will be gone by the time the missile gets to the target. Also the booster weighs a bit; that will be gone too. By the time SM-6 actually hits the ship it won’t be much more than an SM-1 doing the same thing 40 years ago. Think more. Type less.

          • HellfireRacer

            Sorry could not find a weight without the booster right away.. so lets half it for the sake of argument. That is still around the weight of a typical NATO SSM at around 1,500lbs.. flying at mach 3.5 would make up for a bit of the weight in kinetic energy also. With the indicated range given if it hit at half or 3/4 the max range then it would still carry considerable fuel on board.

            And your wrong about the SM-1 comparison. The original SM-1 did not have a contact fuze when first built and only 1/3 the warhead of the considerably upgraded SM-2. Sorry but your 1980s information and Operation Praying Mantis thinking is sorely outdated where the proximity aerial detonation fuzing was used against Iranian warships. Later marks of the SM-2 had delayed and impact fuzing added for use in the secondary anti-shipping role and 3X the size of warhead due to lessons learned during various naval engagements.

            Now, I would agree we could have used a better SSM then the RGM series to a point but the USN primarily left the “sinking ship” job mostly up to the submarines and aircraft. Aircraft have a better chance of not hitting a civilian target in restricted or congested waters – something some enemy navies don’t care about. BVR and OTH engagements have their limitations for specific target acquisition and unfortunately the USN can’t risk sinking neutral or friendly shipping.

            So the SAM/SSM comes to light which can be targeted at specific ships with FAR less chance of hitting another target in its flight path as could happen with the RGM series that do not have MITL, SARH, or 3D radar data processing terminal targeting capability plus they are far harder to engage and shoot down and arrive on target with a fraction of the flight time.


          • sferrin

            “Sorry could not find a weight without the booster right away.. so lets
            half it for the sake of argument. That is still around the weight of a
            typical NATO SSM at around 1,500lbs.. flying at mach 3.5 would make up
            for a bit of the weight in kinetic energy also. With the indicated range
            given if it hit at half or 3/4 the max range then it would still carry
            considerable fuel on board.”

            Judas. No, it would not have “considerable fuel on board”. That motor burns out in seconds. Booster and sustainer gone in well under a minute. Furthermore, from the time the motor burns out until impact the missile is slowing down. This is BASIC stuff. As for warheads, the original warhead (Mk51) was 137 lbs while the latest Mk125 most commonly listed weight is 115kg or less than double that of SM-1s. (The heavier variant in SM-4 LASM was a modified Mk125. Not the same.)

            As for the rest, the other guy is not going to care about “collateral damage” and will shoot at you from as far away as possible. His Mach 2+ sea-skimmer will be FAR more difficult to deal with than SM-6. The sea-skimmer won’t be detected until late in the game most likely, is programmed to evade, and harder to hit. SM-6 by contrast will breach the horizon for all to see shortly after liftoff. As it flies a mostly ballistic path (if you’re trying to get any distance at all) and is NOT programmed for evasion it will be an easy kill.

          • HellfireRacer

            First my name is not “Judas” so I would appreciate at least a bit of professional courtesy.

            The SM-6 is capable of ABM and 200nm+ engagements and so it is not going to burn out in “under a minute” — of which the actual burn time for the SM series is pretty classified and highly variable anyways depending on the model and block version so I will leave it at that.

            Yes, there are variants of the warhead.. as I noted before it was changed at least a dozen times based on several “public” sources, could be more then that and the SM-6 is unknown at best. One original source might have been off about the RIM-66 early models (due to early estimates) but I do know it was increased with later models either in lethality or size or both – specific weights are not always public. In any event, a 137lb (at least) warhead is still nothing to ignore along with the other elements of the missile impact.

            *** “As for the rest, the other guy is not going to care about “collateral damage” and will shoot at you from as far away as possible.” ***

            I believe I already stated the “collateral damage” part previously. As to shooting as “far away as possible”, not without some form of inflight updates from other sources (which can be detected and/or possibly even jammed) and the further you fly a missile more chance there is for margin of navigational error or system failures, or hitting unintended targets, until the weapons can detect their own targets which they often can’t do until they are close to the target zone otherwise they give more time for the defenders to detect and engage them. This all goes back to the basic issues the Soviets had during the Cold War, however the typical combat arena will likely not be the wide open North Atlantic. However CEC and defensive system networking with airborne system radars and picket ships has changed the detection and engagement equation dramatically so its not that simple anymore as shooting from long range and hoping for the best.

            Stating it would be an “easy kill”.. well not for all defenses, and since much of SM6 system is classified that makes such a statement somewhat argumentative. There was good reason why the Soviets added terminal dives to their weapons and for all we know, especially considering the SM frame can do high G maneuvers against aircraft, we have no idea what the SM will do in the terminal phase with a dual role as an SSM now do we? This is not the SM1 with airburst and used as an adhoc SSM or the SM2 which did have some SSM capabilities added.. this is the SM6 which is being developed specifically for the purpose of dual engagements. For all we know it may even use a lower altitude profile for shorter ranged engagements or change flight profiles in transit depending on the target range. The equation has changed more then any of us really know.. so all we can do is best guess based on circumstantial evidence and comparable information based on present weapon systems. I would also note, there is no evidence of ANY SM series being shot down by air defenses in combat – granted most targets had limited AD capabilities.

            IMHO, the SM6 is a welcome upgrade for the SM series.. now could we use a better dedicated SSM for the USN and/or NATO? Depends.. how much do we really need one and would it be worth the investment? That is highly debateable. If it was such a necessity I think the considerable number of NATO nations would have done something more about it by now.. Nations with limited naval airpower and/or submarines, well that is another matter depending on their sphere of influence considerations.


          • sferrin

            You do like the sound of your own voice.

            “The SM-6 is capable of ABM and 200nm+ engagements and so it is not going to burn out in “under a minute” — of which the actual burn time for the SM series is pretty classified and highly variable anyways depending on the model and block version so I will leave it at that.”

            Wow. You just lost the rest of what little credibility you had. 1. Burn times are readily available. 2. They are not “highly variable”. Every SM-6 has the same type of motor. Every SM-3 has the same type of booster stack. SM-6s, SM-3s, and SM-2 Block IV all have the same booster stack, with the SM-3 having an additional 3rd stage. Facts > baseless assertions. Same with your “dozen types of warheads” claim. You could go all the way back to Tartar and not have a dozen types of warheads for Tartar/SM-1MR/SM-2MR.

            “Stating it would be an “easy kill”.. well not for all defenses, and since much of SM6 system is classified that makes such a statement somewhat argumentative. ”

            Go look at the flight profile of the AGM-37C, which they’ve been shooting down since the 80s.

          • HellfireRacer

            Well.. at least I do not try to insult the person I am conversing with.

            Yes. the *actual* burn times are classified.. based on several people I have talked about naval weapons with that worked around the SM series. Public stuff is often based on what the military wants everyone to think. If you have expert information please provide it since your ok with challenging others but not providing counter evidence. And yes, they can be highly variable depending on the propulsion motor and propellent upgrades/types, flight profiles for intercept, etc.. which can change – even if not known publicly – due to mission parameters and targeting profiles.

            What.. do you know every little minutia and modification, at sea and in the depots, every test firing, every possible flight profile, etc.. of what the USN does with their SM series before and after they are in production? If so you should be working at one of their design and production plants right now and making serious money at it.

            I know about their drones.. and not all practice “shoot downs” are public information (just like not all weapon tests are public, if they are not going to give exact details for every “SINKEX” then they surely won’t be giving out all the details for weapon testing) and the USN can alter how a missile acts in combat based on what they learn during the practice firings – both in the attack and in the defense mode. Also the drones can be programmed, with the best possible intel, to act like potential threat weaponry or as one of our own weapons to see if alterations to the attack mode can provide ideas on how to defeat enemy, or our own, defenses. I am sure that information can be put to some use to try and help defeat a variety of air defense systems for the SM6. But I am sure, with you being an expert on the SM series, would know that already.

            I do know the SM6 was used to shoot down a high speed VLOW supersonic SSM drone called the GQM-163A (and other drones were shot down at extreme ranges including OTH engagements) to help answer those that wonder if we test against such threats. Engagement tests also included using the data provided by other sources, part of the CEC phased testing.

            BTW, the SM-3 has 4 stages not 3,

            Stage 1: MK 72 Booster, solid-fuel, Aerojet
            Stage 2: MK 104 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor (DTRM), solid-fuel, Aerojet
            Stage 3: MK 136 Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM), solid-fuel, ATK
            Stage 4: Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System (TDACS), [Aerojet]

            Total number of *known* warheads SM1-SM3 .. Mk90, Mk115, Mk125 (and and updated version), Mk51, LEAP, High Divert, plus some different fuzing types to cover a variety of targets. Also, some warheads were changed in how they detonate, their fragmentation effect, and if they used either a proximity spherical (or derivative) or cone effect explosive pattern depending on mission parameters and warhead composition. I guess I should have been more specific by stating at least a dozen “warhead modifications” instead of “types”, sorry if my wording confused you.

            Even a slight change in a warhead fuzing or detonation sequence can greatly alter the effectiveness of the warhead against different targets. Again.. this is the “public” stuff.. no telling how many other alterations have been made that are not known either for testing purposes or modified engagement requirements. SM6 was also modified but classified.

            Now I will say I am not some sort of expert on aeronautics and the physics of missile systems but I do know that opinions vary widely about how weapons act in combat, testing, and training exercises – especially for those that were in the service, or still in, as almost no one ever gives the same answer twice in the same exact detail. Modern naval technology is not a static equation.. it changes constantly, but again, with you being an apparent expert, should already know this.


          • Al L.

            I think you and others are underestimating the possibilities of this missile as an ASM.

            Lets say the target ship is 100nm from the launching ship. Missile is launched. it climbs to 25000 feet altitude and 15000 feet astern of target ship. Target ship has no idea if the missile is aimed at it or if its on an antiair intercept. It probably cant tell if its an sm-6 or a SM-2 IV or some other later SM-2 variant. It then turns and dives toward the target ship. Slant distance is about 5.5 miles which the missile covers in about 8 seconds. Unfortunately most warships today have 2 problems with this: they’re defensive systems are not optimized for verticle attacks, and from on top they all have almost exactly the same shape, with a big fat flat target right over their running gear. Missile hits helo deck, weighing a 1000 lbs moving at 2500 mph it hits with the energy of 135lb of TNT and a 250lb warhead(an Exocet hits with the energy of 16lb of TNT and a 385lb warhead) exactly where the keel is closest to the deck ( about 20 feet on a FFG-7) and where there are all kinds of seals to leak (and on a FFG-7 the magazine and JP-5 tankage) Ship is dead in the water, probably has no or minimal power and is probably leaking badly if not holed through with a fire raging and secondary explosions imminent.

            This missile is not the same as past AA missiles used secondarily against ships. Its robust active radar guidance and after launch, off platform guidance capability make it usable unlike any past AA missile.

          • HellfireRacer

            Well stated.. there are many aspects of this equation that we may not know that could greatly alter how these weapons would or could be used in combat. Doglegs, waypoints, alternate flight profiles, etc.. We are talking about a weapon with a very high G turn rate that can be updated in flight and was originally designed to engage high speed diving or low flying threats that are also possibly highly maneuverable so a ship target could be very likely engaged using a variety of attack profiles..

          • @USS_Fallujah

            You’re probably right about the weights, but I like how you provide snark but no useful information to go with it. How much of the 3,000lbs is booster and fuel? If you know you aren’t sharing, so why not keep the attitude in check.

          • sferrin

            The “attitude” is because I get tired of seeing people asserting a bunch of made up nonsense as fact. It gets old.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Well all hail the Wikipedia admiral.

    • RedStatePatriot

      “Knocking a ship out of the fight (AKA Mission Kill) is often far more then enough to remove it from a rapidly evolving war that will likely end long before it can be repaired”

      The Japanese might disagree with your assessment as they disregarded any possibility that the carrier Yorktown, badly damaged and listing after the battle of the Coral Sea, could play any role in the Battle of Midway… they were wrong, and it likely cost them the battle.

      The US miraculously got the ship back into the fight in only 72 hours, a seemingly impossible task.

      • HellfireRacer

        I think your forgetting a few points, plus I think your mixing up the damage caused at Midway where she was listing and crippled by several hits with the far lesser damage sustained at Coral Sea..

        * Yorktown, at Coral Sea, was only hit by one 500lb SAP bomb, with about 125-200lb of explosive filler, that punched through the flight deck and detonated below decks. However, this did not cause any disruption with her recovering aircraft, defenses, buoyancy, speed, or maneuvering. However, it knocked her out of the Pacific War for 3 weeks – May 9th to May 30th, transit time back to Pearl Harbor and the time to make ad hoc rushed repairs so as to recover full flight operations.

        * The CV Yorktown was a nearly 20,000 ton warship .. which is larger then any USN naval combatant smaller then a CVN. Even the Tico and AB classes come in at only around 8-11,000 tons and are packed full of weapons and electronics.. and no reasonable armor protection except some kevlar over critical spaces to help protect against blast fragmentation. The FFG that is part of this article was only around 4,000+ tons fully loaded as comparison.

        Now considering the Pacific War lasted around 45 months and most modern naval engagements would likely only last a few weeks and yet the Yorktown was effectively mission killed for 3 weeks I would not consider your example an exception to the rule. In a modern naval engagement.. the Yorktown would have been possibly knocked out of the fight if her air operations could not be mostly, or completely, restored at sea and in quick order. Imagine a CVN with disrupted flight operations due to flight deck damage being out 3 weeks.. a modern naval war would already be effectively over.

        As a side note.. the Battle of Midway was lost for a range of reasons for the IJN – mostly due to IJN mistakes in lack of tactical flexibility, ineffective recon, poor CAP coordination, etc.. Plus it didn’t help them that the USN was reading their naval communications. However, if I had to pick one very important tactical factor.. it would be the failures with the A6M2 Zero design as a naval CAP aircraft. I will let you figure out why.


        • @USS_Fallujah

          The IJN lost at Midway because a seaplane from the Tone was delayed taking off the morning of the 4th. Had that plane spotted the US Carrier force before Nagumo ordered the 2nd strike on Midway the IJN strike force would have been off the deck headed for TF 16/17 before the USN strike arrived and (most importantly) there would have been no munitions left on the deck when the US dive bombers scored hits. Thus the entire balance of the exchange would be reversed, US forces scoring fewer and less substantive hits on the IJN carriers and getting a full force attack on the US carriers instead of the mixed bag they send against the Enterprise.
          Amazing how often history swings on such minor details.

          • HellfireRacer

            The idea of using CR floatplanes in itself was a faulty idea as it lacked the cohesive coordination of using specially trained squadrons (like the USN SBD scouts and PBYs). Also, using subs for recon was a total waste of the IJN submarine force would could have been used to some good effect to cut off Australia – where 2 of the USN major sub bases were located – and they could have caused problems for the USN base at Noumea. The IJN submarine command wanted to commit to commerce warfare to the south the but the IJN naval command countered the idea so such efforts were only done on a limited scale.

            However back to Midway, the decks were not full of “ordnance”.. that was a total myth. All the ordnance was below decks for rearming the Japanese strike aircraft. Now we get to the point of where the A6M2 proved to be an utter failure for the IJN as a naval CAP aircraft. The planes that were spotted by the dive bombers on the CV decks were not attack aircraft.. they were A6M2s in the process of rearming after defending against the virtually helpless torpedo bombers that attacked without any fighter protection and that could barely fly faster then a pregnant seagull due to the pathetic early version of the Mk13 torpedo (later versions were much improved). The A6M2 had great flight endurance but very poor combat endurance – limited effective ammunition for their 20mm cannons, around 6 seconds of firepower (their 7.7mm guns were worthless vs metal aircraft and were often primarily used to range the lower velocity 20mm cannons). However, their worst deficiency was a crappy radio that was built based on civilian specifications and as of which failed miserably in combat conditions. With their poor communications the FIDO (fighter directors on the IJN CVs) had no way to coordinate their own fighter coverage, this is not even counting the inability for A6M2 pilots to work together using team tactics. As a comparison, the F4F Wildcat pilots put team work into good effect to help counter the A6M2. The lack of effective fighter coordination was the ultimate failure with the IJN CV defensive perimeter. Any task force without effective fighter coverage was basicly little more then target practice for any reasonable, and well piloted, attack aircraft. Imagine the British during the Battle of Britain without good working 2 channel, and then later 4 channel, radios in every plane, it would have been a disaster. Many historians focus solely on the radar.. and forget that communications were absolutely critical for effective fighter defense.

            Now the IJN had the excellent Kate torpedo bomber (although easily shot down if hit) with a good working torpedo.. but the USN counter to the Kate was the SBD with double the typical payload of the Val and which was very difficult to intercept and shoot down (very sturdy aircraft) especially if the enemy defensive fighters were not at the right place at the right time before they started their dives – and that really required good working radios on the fighters for CAP vectoring. So more often then not, dedicated SBD attacks proved to be very lethal to the IJN warships. Also, 1000lb SAP bombs caused CVs to be very likely mission killed after creating very big holes in the flight decks. To make matters worse, they often hit the elevators since they made nice big dive bomber targets which caused even more problems for flight ops and fighting fires below decks. To add insult to injury.. without good early warning radar and and effective FIDO/CAP coordination the IJN crews had virtually no time to prepare fire control procedures and proper ammo stowage before an attack occurred.

            Overall the IJN suffered many systemic failures during Midway.. but the failures of the A6M2 was a major cause of why many of their CVs were sunk or severely damaged during the 4 major CV engagements of the Pacific War. The USN had a bit of a learning curb to improve on CAP vectoring during the war but without a working radio on the A6M2 and not utilizing radar technology for early warning the IJN CVs were at a terrible disadvantage in terms of CV warfare in the Pacific if attacked and they suffered dearly for it. And of course this is not even getting into enclosed hangars (made fighting fires much harder and caused heat buildup inside the hull) and poor damage control procedures which just added to their demise.

            Point being, it was not just one piece of bad luck that caused their loss at Midway.. it was a string of poor command decisions and tactical flaws on the part of the IJN command.


          • Whlhousejocky

            Haha a pregnant seagull

          • Hein S

            A lot of LUCK for the Americans,


          • Secundius

            Most Likely, because there was a Monsoon in the Area at the Time. Seaplanes of pre-WW2 were Daylight/Fair Weather Capable ONLY…

    • sferrin

      A “mission kill” comes back to fight another day. A sunk ship does not.

      • HellfireRacer

        True .. but only if it can return to the battle before the war is over. Also, can you always confirm a sunk ship with BVR weapons in a combat zone? BTW, even during WW2 many severely damaged ships never fought again even with the war lasting several years. If it was not for US naval yards many British warships would have been knocked out of the war due to lack of repair facilities in Britain. If you don’t have the time or resources to repair them then its a moot point. Navies are not typically perpetually and forever at war so many severely damaged ships would likely never fight in a war again anyways. This is not WW1 or WW2 where navies have years to recover. In a modern naval battlefield you have days or weeks of combat and most ships can’t be repaired that fast, especially at sea with major damage.. and that is to say the ship is not finished off by other means. During FW1982 several British ships were knocked out of the fight.. did it really matter if they survived the war or not? The battle was over before they could even get fixed, in some cases before they could even make it back to even get repaired and many of those ships never saw action again in their service lives.

        • AncientSubHunter

          Well done on your analysis. I’m not sure why our imagination believes we will be at war with China or Russia for “a long time.”

          Our next “superpower” war will be very quick and very violent. And we should be aiming for containment and mission kill as the primary goal.

          And make no mistake, we will have significant losses (damaged equipment and high casualties).

          And neither side, regardless of the claims, will have won in the short or long term.

          • HellfireRacer

            Thank you for the respectful thoughts and reply. 🙂

  • sn0rk3l

    What is a Reuben James?

    • Dan Passaro

      The ship that single-handedly won the north atlantic convoy war when the Soviet Union engaged it’s Red Storm attack plan.

      Damn kids.


      • sn0rk3l

        I remember that when some friends and me (all addicted to Harpoon) read Red Storm Rising, there was no internet in Spain so we couldn’t search that name. The question is made in the novel via signal lamp.

        • Joe Maxwell

          At least we don’t name ships after our mother-in-law

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Anyone know how big the SM-6 warhead is?
    Surely it’s not big enough to defeat anything above a small boat?

    Also, I would think at $4m per missile, there are more cost effective ways of defeating a surface target at range?

    • HellfireRacer

      SM-6 warhead.. classified. Likely larger and more lethal then the 137lb warhead on the RIM-67.

      $4M to engage a target outside of their typical response range is far cheaper then getting hit in return and the enemy likely paid a lot more for that ship then the cost of the missile knocking it out of combat. Plus .. very often a deterrent is worth more then the cost of the weapon by far, SLBMs are solid proof of this equation. Now if your talking about some poorly armed gunboat.. then yes a typical helo with AGM, ship launched ESSM, or 5″ could deal with those. However, any threatening ship with a missile system of its own is another matter and you don’t want to guess about the return fire. In that case the best option is to hammer it before it can do anything. Better that then some international incident where US sailors are killed and a major USN warship becomes a political liability.

      For naval combat, the ultimate and most effective “immunity zone” is to be outside the range of effective return fire. Whey test your own defenses if you don’t have to in a very complex battleground scenario?


      • sferrin

        Actually, it’s probably the same warhead. It might have had it’s fragmentation configuration changed to help it kill warhead of missiles, but it’s not going to be any heavier than the current warhead. Probably be even lighter to take advantage increased accuracy enabling higher aero performance.

        • HellfireRacer

          Possibly.. but between the life span of the RIM-66 and RIM-67 the warhead was updated or changed around 12 times. With upgraded and smaller electronics, more efficient flight dynamics, and improved fuel efficiency.. a lot would depend if they increased the fuel capacity and/or further added to the warhead lethality. As they intend to use it against ships it is possible they enhanced the overall design to combine the effects of additional fuel and the explosive warhead, upgraded the warhead with improved chemical explosives, or increased the warhead payload.. or all of the above. Of course..we will likely not know for sure for quite some time.

          The military is constantly upgrading the composition of various explosive chemistry and various propellants for improved performance.. so there is no telling what they have in that missile for now.


  • @USS_Fallujah

    Thank you @samlagrone for throwing in the Red Storm Rising mention, still one of my favorite books.

  • Jon

    Better than nothing.

    • sferrin

      Yeah, that’s pretty much the story of US antiship missile development. Not exactly inspiring.

  • HellfireRacer

    Traditional SSM vs SAM used as SSM..

    I see some comments about SSMs being a better weapon then using SAMs in the SSM role.. I tend to disagree.

    First and foremost.. its FAR better to launch a few VERY hard to hit missiles then a lot of missiles that will likely get shot down in terms of modern naval combat. This is not the 1970s and early 1980s where saturation attacks might work vs NTU or analog FC systems that could only engage a certain number of “vampires” at any given time. The advent of high tech CIWS, rapid response point defense missiles, computerized 3D and AEGIS air defense systems changed those rules forever. Now the priority is to challenge those defenses with harder to hit inbounds.. not big flying drones that were the size of small aircraft like many of the Soviet missiles of the Cold War or slow flying SSMs that have been used by NATO ships for several decades. Sure they still have some purpose.. but their overall effect on the modern naval battlefield have been greatly diminished except vs less defendable targets.

    Ships can only carry a few dedicated SSMs .. but they can carry buckets of SAMs so why not allow the SAMs to have a dual role? Why not use weapons that have a higher chance of mission kills then the typical slower flying or far easier to detect SSMs?

    I agree with the direction of the USN to have a weapon system that can engage nearly any perceived threat then having dedicated weapons that have a lower chance of penetrating high tech defenses taking up space and weight on the ship. Just a handful of SM-6s would likely have a far greater chance of penetrating enemy defenses and mission killing almost any major warship with greater odds then your typical salvoed SSM attack. A modern warship is not difficult to knock out of the war as has been proven many times over.. so better to get good hits then no hits at all. Even if the enemy target is rendered far less capable it could always be sunk later if needed. In a modern war.. even a reasonably damaged ship is pretty much a non-threatening ship and that is the bottom line.


    • sferrin

      “I see some comments about SSMs being a better weapon then using SAMs in the SSM role.. I tend to disagree.”

      Everybody is entitled to an opinion. Since the mod deleted my post explaining why you’re incorrect I’ll sum up: antiship missiles sink ships better than SAMs do. The end.

      • HellfireRacer

        A counter example.. 2 SM6s would likely have more hitting power (estimated warhead, kinetic energy, missile weight, remaining fuel, etc..) then any 1 NATO SSM.. and you would need about 5-10X or more SSMs to penetrate most sophisticated air defenses to get just one hit depending on the target. Plus the speed of the SAM/SSM would allow a ship to respond and hit a target far faster then one firing much slower SSMs.

        Overall, in general, no missile built was ever really intended to “sink ships” . Missiles were more intended to beat a ship into submission much like naval gunfire of WW2. Again, we go back to the “mission kill” concept which many love to ignore as it is not as dramatic as “sinking”. The best way to sink a ship is with weapons that breaks the keel and puts in tons of water.. AKA the torpedo. Breaching the side of a hull near the waterline does not always typically sink a major warship but it will slow it down considerably due to the loss of hull integrity. Smashing through the deck at high speed can cause similar problems with loss of speed by detonating below decks in the engineering spaces, much like a SAM/SSM would do or a terminal diving SSM.

        SSMs have some use left.. but if ships can’t carry enough of them to penetrate heavy air defenses then something else has to be considered. Single purpose weapons also have their limitations on warships that need to deal with multiple threats.


        • sferrin

          “A counter example.. 2 SM6s would likely have more hitting power
          (estimated warhead, kinetic energy, missile weight, remaining fuel,
          etc..) then any 1 NATO SSM..”

          Unfortunately, we’re not fighting NATO.

          “Plus the speed of the SAM/SSM would allow a ship to respond and hit a target far faster then one firing much slower SSMs.”

          Have you actually ever SEEN a Brahmos/Yakhont launch? That thing is out of there faster than a SAM, and it doesn’t slow down.

          • HellfireRacer

            “Unfortunately, we’re not fighting NATO.”

            Maybe so.. but other navies do not really build any tougher ships then NATO.. so it still counts – especially in terms of mission kills.

            “Have you actually ever SEEN a Brahmos/Yakhont launch? That thing is out of there faster than a SAM, and it doesn’t slow down.”

            I was comparing the SM-6 to the slower SSMs that are presently available.. and the Brahmos, according to most sources, is not faster then an SM-6. Later versions with higher speeds are still years out.

            I can tell your all about the idea of some super wicked supersonic SSM with a big fat warhead and for navies with virtually no naval air power that might be their only option.. but it is not the only option for the USN. Would it be nice to have? Maybe.. would it be totally necessary? Likely not.

          • sferrin

            “I can tell your all about the idea of some super wicked supersonic SSM with a big fat warhead”

            Yep. Because they’re more effective than subsonic, short-ranged firecrackers or SAMs pretending to be antiship missiles.

            “and for navies with virtually no naval air power that might be their only option.. but it is not the only option for the USN. ”

            Because every US destroyer has an SSN and CVN with it right? Right?

          • HellfireRacer

            Not every USN DDG will be engaging a major warship either. Most naval threats at present are small craft, missile boats, corvettes, and frigates. Most potentially threatening navies do not have much in the way of major naval combatants that cannot be reasonably dealt with by SM6 impacts, typical NATO SSMs, naval air, or subs with the only somewhat possibility – although still unlikely- being China.

            Now again, would it be nice to have a fast moving harder hitting SSM? Possibly.. Is it absolutely necessary? That is debatable – and I won’t get into global politics. There are potential candidates in the works by various NATO navies that the USN could consider.

            If there is any one major flaw with the USN IMHO, is a lack of a good FFG. Presently we can only patrol waterways with far more expensive DDGs and CGs for the most part and I think that leaves a hole in our global operations capability.


  • Russ Neal

    I’d like to know if the SM-6 missiles have anti-air, anti-missile and anti-ship capability in the same missile or whether each is specialized. It would be nice to have every missile on board be a triple threat.

    • HellfireRacer

      I am reasonably sure it is capable of ALBM, LRSAM, and SSM all in the same package. That is how the SM-6 is presently advertised.

      • HellfireRacer

        Hi Russ, it is not entirely true that we do not have any “effective antiship missiles”. The RGM series is actually a very capable system that is easily on par with any other typical NATO SSM systems. The problem is we have to take great care in not hitting neutral shipping ..a problem most of our enemies could care less about. OTH/BVR targeting in congested waters is not a simple problem and then you want to hit priority targets, not just the less valuable escort and picket ships. The other issue is that no matter the SSM most sophisticated air defense systems would cause a very high loss rate for most SSM salvo attacks due to their typical flight profiles, airframe size, and/or slow speed.

        Russia developed dedicated AShMs for many years in response USN naval aerial superiority in blue water combat environments and depended greatly on land based airpower to help defend their sphere of influence. The submarines were the primary offensive forces for Atlantic interdiction at time of war. The need for a dedicated SSM for the USN was not nearly as important to the USN which had aircraft and subs for anti-shipping work as it was to the Soviet navy which had virtually no naval airpower.

        The Russian AShMs were very large, sometimes very fast, and with large warheads and they were hoping for a swarm attack to try and at least get a few through the integrated defenses of a CVN task force and to compensate for likely attrition to navigational errors and missile system failures. However, their very large missiles were often far easier to detect at long ranges as most were the size of small aircraft. The SS-N-22 did change the equation a bit as it was fast and flew at VLOW altitude, however how low, and at what point of the flight profile, is highly debated as VLOW flight at high speed can be very problematic in various environmental conditions but flying higher for such a large missile would give the defending ships more time to detect and engage it. Several defense systems were specifically upgraded over the years to deal with such a threat.

        NATO SSMs depended more on stealthy flight profiles and in some cases TOT (time on target) saturation multi-weapon multi-axis profile attacks to help penetrate enemy warship defenses.. but the ultimate ship killer was to be naval airpower and, most of all, attack submarines.

        The ultimate problem facing NATO was the ability to hit a specific target and not some neutral shipping or less valuable enemy unit. This problem was magnified with OTH/BVR targeting when a target could not be visually identified. Later SSMs had better 3D radar resolution and in some cases MITL terminal guidance to help insure the correct target was being engaged.

        Since NATO had a far higher priority for warships to defend against the AShM threat air defenses were given a maximum priority for technological upgrades. So in the end it makes sense for NATO ships, and especially the USN, to use SAMs in a dual role rather then to concentrate on adding heavy AShMs to the mix especially when even if a mission kill would be quite effective against most naval threats – as has been proven many times in various naval engagements. A rapid response, short time of flight, and controllable terminal targeting for congested waters are also top priorities.. so in the end developing the SM-6 as a capable lethal anti-ship weapon AND effective SAM system makes sense when all typical combat scenarios are considered.

        The USN has been moving to a directive of multi-purpose weapons for years now as that cuts down dramatically on logistical, tactical, and training complexities while not cutting down on combat flexibility. I have not always agreed with every USN decision but the SM-6 dual role capability is one I definitely agree with.


    • sferrin

      All the same. Surface attack roles for SAMs are nothing new. This has been going on for over half a century. This is just being portrayed as some new, cutting edge, thing in an effort to hide the fact we have no effective antiship missiles.

  • Matthew Schilling

    More uses for the same limited inventory of missiles at sea. We need more at sea. I think there has been talk of using a modified San Antonio hull to build a ship with much more capability and firepower than an Arleigh Burke.

  • publius_maximus_III

    I assume the Navy has some type of defensive weapon for the PLAN’s supersonic ship missile. Why not install a remote controlled version on the Reuben James, and may the best test win?

    • HellfireRacer

      Yes.. its called the ESSM, updated SM configurations, updated CIWS, enhanced CM/ECM, long range network detection systems, RAM, etc… The USN has not been totally oblivious to the concept of fast moving SSMs which have been around since about the 1970s.

  • RobM1981

    Very cool. Yes, I realize that the warhead is too small, it’s not stealthy, etc., but hey – it’s a Mach 3 missile. Not easy to stop, and loaded with kinetic energy.

  • Whlhousejocky

    I thought the John Paul Jones was sunk by aliens.

    • Secundius

      You’re Probably think of the Roger Young…

  • HellfireRacer

    I think there is a critical point being missed here.. the USN stated a “new capability” of hitting surface ships with SAMs. Now hitting a ship with a SAM has been a possibility since the 1960s (at first with airburst detonations and later with direct impact).. BUT.. not beyond OTH range or with its own terminal guidance package.

    With CEC, and/or data updates from another asset, this new feature could allow surface ships armed with the SM6 to engage surface threats out to around 200nm – far beyond the detection and tracking range of the firing ship. This feature is definitely new for the USN – or for any other navy that I know of. This would mean an enemy surface combatant attacking a friendly or neutral asset could be engaged from a considerable distance so long as another asset could update the SM-6 in flight until its own terminal guidance package could detect the target or be directly guided by another asset (CEC or data link).

    In contested waters with a mix of enemy and friendly shipping this would be quite a useful tactic as otherwise you would need aircraft and crews deployed into the danger zone to engage that enemy threat at possibly far closer engagement ranges to help verify the enemy target. If an SM-6 armed ship is in range the SM-6 could respond and arrive on target FAR faster then arming an aircraft, launching it, transiting to the target zone, and then attacking the target and safer then launching an SSM that would also take longer to transit to the target zone and possibly have trouble detecting the specific target being attacked if other shipping is in the area.

    I have talked to several surface warfare operators over the years and have always been told that it is VERY rare for the RGM to be used against enemy OTH targets due to the chances of hitting other shipping in the area unless the area of water was “sanitized”. The SM6 could greatly help to alleviate that issue and allow for a response time to target that would be faster then any other weapon system in the USN arsenal while also being extremely hard for most naval units to defend against. The 137lb (or larger) warhead combined with any remaining missile fuel and kinetic energy would likely be very bad news for any ship smaller then a destroyer. Many enemy threats are often small craft, missile boats, frigates, and corvettes hiding out in coastal waters and shipping lanes and none would deal with such an impact without considerable blast and fire damage or being outright sunk. For that matter, the SM1 and SM2 have been used in previous naval engagements for those specific reasons – rapid response and/or surgical strike mission kills – so there is good reason why the USN is continuing to evolve that attribute for the SM series so that the engagements can take place beyond the surface target radar horizon of around 20-24nm.

    The benefits of such tactical flexibility in contested, and often confined, waters should be very obvious when considering the potential engagement scenarios. Also, for anyone that thinks a “bigger badder faster” dedicated SSM is needed.. such a weapon would be either virtually useless or far less flexible and effective for the above tactical scenario. The USN is also not trying to engage major surface combatants (CGs and CVs) in an all out major blue water naval conventional war with the SM6.. although, it would have its tactical attributes in those engagements as well but that topic is for another discussion.


  • Snafuperman

    So the Stark survives an Exocet hit, and another survives a mine hit, but a single SAM sinks an OHP??? My BS meter is off the charts. Must have had all fire suppression systems off and all bulkhead doors open.

    I call shenanigans!!!

    • HellfireRacer

      A response,

      * The mine detonation cracked the keel but the FFG Samuel Roberts was saved by outstanding damage control training.

      * The MM38 hit, the one that detonated, did not cause any floatation damage. The location of the hit was located at the superstructure and upper hull so the FFG Stark was able to go to a nearby port on its own power for temporary repairs.

      * Being hit by an SM6 screaming in a dive at over Mach 3.5 and likely detonating deep inside the hull (which could magnify the effects of the explosive warhead) likely caused catastrophic damage, possibly blowing a hole in the keel or hull sides below the water line in the engineering spaces, and/or cuasing severe fires from the blast and possible remaining missile fuel.

      Warships – that were fully crewed and at battlestations – of larger size were lost to less damage during the Falklands War in 1982.

      Real world damage effects by modern weapons is not some form of health meter vs weapon damage rating scenario in a video game. Quite often it is far more important to know where a weapon hits and the damage caused to the integrity of a ship then the size of the bang created by the weapon warhead.


  • Kev789

    GhostRiderHK – thanks for your coherent and logical comments which have clarified my understanding of anti-ship missiles. Unfortunate that one of your respondents has an attitude problem: it’s hard to take his comments seriously when encumbered by vitriol.

    • HellfireRacer

      Thank you for the kind words Kev. 🙂

  • HellfireRacer

    An interesting figure to consider,

    With the SM2, 3, and 6 being SSM capable (direct impact fuzing and at least a 137lb warhead each, at least radar horizon range for the SM 2 and 3 unless directed by CEC, or far greater extended range with the SM6) the USN at present – a conservative figure – has at least 283-425+ tons of anti-ship missile hitting power. That is counting only 50-75% of the total number of VLS launchers (total of 8262) available on 84 active major surface combatants and *does not* include any CG/DDG compatible RGM-84s, naval aerial ordnance, or submarines equipped with UGM-84s (of course they can also kill ships using the Mk48 ADCAPs). This is also not even considering the fact that the TLAM could be used against enemy ships in port or anchored. Versions of the Block IV Tomahawks are planned to have MMW radar seekers for engaging targets at sea.

    I would think the USN has surface warfare pretty well covered now.


  • Swiftright Right

    Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
    Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
    She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
    But tonight she’s in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

  • HellfireRacer

    Two points.. weapon updates, and why the USN likely prefered not to have big fat heavy AShMs..

    * First.. no public website on the planet will have detailed information about every single update, change, adjustment, tweak, etc.. made to a weapon system. At most you might find general information about major block design upgrades and changes. Example, the Israelis are some of worlds experts on weapon modifications and testing (and buckets of combat experience) so just try and figure out all the little changes they have made to their weapons – that would be near impossible. Second, modularization, updateable computer programmed flight profile and targeting logic, adjustable altimeters, modifiable fuzing, etc..etc..etc.. are all things that can be adjusted with a weapon system. Adjustments could be made at the production plants, depots, or even in some cases at sea. Point being, just because a weapon originated in the 1970s doesn’t necessarily mean it is no longer effective in combat as there has likely been countless public and classified updates made to the system that can alter its survivability in various combat conditions and even against specific threats. Around 30 countries use the Harpoon missile system, I think there might be a reason for that as there is plenty of competition in the AShM market and it is definitely comparable to other presently available, and even newer, NATO SSM systems.

    * Why does the USN not have big fat fast AShMs? Does, or even did, the USN really need them?

    The Soviet surface fleet of the Cold War was a defensive doctrinal force with the primary offensive firepower being the naval strike bombers and submarines for interdicting the Atlantic shipping routes. The Soviet fleet knew all too well that subs from multiple nations in the GIUK region were a very serious threat along with any land and naval based air power. NATO airpower in general could easily outrange their own AShM missiles and their blue water fleet only had limited numbers of AShMs on board and no effective naval air power of their own for CAP and very limited AEW. Chances are they would have used up their AShMs payloads in all or nothing attacks against maybe 1-2 CVBGs – IF they could get in effective firing range (which is usually far below maximum range for most any weapon system) and IF they could get good midcourse guidance for long range attacks – not as simple as it sounds. The attrition rate for shot down missiles, mechanical failures, ECM/decoys, etc.. would have likely been quite high. It was not a simple matter of going out there with the missile armed warships and going to town against the NATO task forces. Modern naval combat simply doesn’t work that way and NATO was not totally oblivious to the threat.

    One must also consider that many Soviet warships were floating explosive barges with all those weapons on board, had flammable hulls, and typically had very poor damage control. 1-2 sizeable ordnance hits could have proved disastrous if any one of those numerous ammo magazines on major Soviet warships detonated due to the warheads and/or propellent fires. Most magazines had barely any protection, if any at all. In that sense, their big AShMs were as dangerous, or even more so, to their own ships if detonated as they were to the enemy targets. Their biggest warships were also only half to one quarter the size of a CVN (the Soviets primary targets) in terms of displacement so was a big AShM really needed to do severe damage? Probably not. The Soviets hoped if they fired enough missiles minus all the losses and mechanical attrition that at least one or more might hit a CVN.. so they made them big with massive warheads and as long ranged as possible – greater speed was added to some variants to help improve their odds of TOT accuracy (which was a critical consideration when calculating transit time frames vs moving targets) and to give less return fire chances during the terminal engagement phases. However a big missile is also a big radar target at long range and fast moving AShMs capable of VLOW altitude could not always fly that low during the entire transit and could not easily hide from AEW with look down capability.. however, that was their doctrine. The USN also made numerous upgrades to their defensive doctrines, tactics, sensor arrays, counter-measures, and weapons to help deal with such threats.

    So did the USN really need big fat missiles that would have taken up massive amounts of deck space? Such missiles taking space away from sophisticated AD systems in the hopes some surface combatants might get lucky enough to bag a few Soviet warships was simply not a logical tactic considering that Soviet AShMs and torpedoes from submarines were the most obvious serious threats to surface ships. Chances of even getting in range to use RGMs was slim to remote at best as the NATO surface force doctrine did not include chasing after Soviet warships – especially anywhere near their defensive perimeter around their major ports which the Soviet TFs would have stayed as close to as possible. So the USN decided to let the aircraft and subs be the primary assets to deal with those threats. Subs are a serious TF transit deterrent due to their high level of stealth and far better at disabling or sinking ships and aircraft, and especially if using stand-off attack weapons, have better range then even the Soviet AShMs. The USN did have AShMs just in case, the primary weapon being the Harpoon, of which hundreds or more were available at any given time for ships, subs, and aircraft. Exact numbers have always been classified – and they were definitely not the only USN anti-shipping weapon option. The primary doctrine of the NATO surface forces was to keep the shipping lanes to the EU open during time of war.. not to go hunting down Soviet warships which would have likely only rushed out to fire whatever AShMs they could and then back off to nearby Soviet ports, land based air cover, and coastal SS protection while trying to avoid or defend against retaliation attacks from NATO submarine, coastal patrols, and aerial assets during the entire deployment.

    It is also important to note that AShMs combat is not just about speed, range, altitude, and warheads.. those are just the tip of the equation for effective anti-shipping engagements. Every attribute in performance often has its own trade-offs. Having a big fat AShM is not always the best option.

    I already addressed lack of requirement for large AShMs for the present day USN with previous posts on this thread.


  • Rob C.

    Does the cost of using SM-6 verses say a Harpoon II just off-set anything? I know the Harpoons are too big to fit in the ship’s VLS. Aren’t the SM-6’s bit expensive in comparison to the Harpoon family?

    • HellfireRacer

      The RGM-84 Blk II costs about $1.2M and the SM-6 around $3.5-4M. However, what is the cost of hitting the wrong target, not responding fast enough, or political repercussions for not using the most effective weapon at that time? Many weapons that are used by various militaries are often more costly then the threats they engage. The cost of the weapon however cannot be the only consideration in the overall battlefield equation especially when international politics, potential collateral damage, and lives on all sides are involved.

      Example, I have heard from vets serving overseas that the Javelin ATGM has been used to eliminate sniper positions.. that is a $76K missile round designed to kill AFVs. But what is the cost per soldier injured or killed by the sniper that may be far more difficult to neutralize by other available means? Expensive $20K munitions are used to wax incoming cheap rocket and mortar rounds by the Israelis using Iron Dome…but what is the cost for civilian casualties and political fallout if incoming rounds hit civilian population? Some tanks are now defended by active defense systems that are often far more expensive per use then the RPGs fired at the vehicles – but what is the cost of a damaged or lost tank and crew? The list goes on…

      The first priority is to neutralize the threat as expeditiously as possible by whatever means that are available that also minimize the possibility of potential collateral damage/casualties. All other considerations, including cost of weapon, are usually secondary priorities. If however the threat is minimal and cheaper weapons can be used then that is the prerogative of the commander on scene at that time. Example, a patrol boat armed only with MGs and RPGs might get zapped by the 127mm gun, 20-25mm ACs, HMGs, GLs, CIWS, or AGMs.


      • HellfireRacer

        Some further notes,

        The ESSM is also capable of engaging surface craft and costs about the same as the RGMs. They have a 86lb warhead and would use airbust mode to mission kill the target and cause crew casualties.

        One USN weapon operator told me a while back that they found it quite effective to fire 5″ proximity airburst shells vs small boats. The shrapnel and blast effect usually shredded the boat and was obviously very unpleasant for the crew and they didn’t have to score a direct hit on such a small target.


  • Kruno

    Now this is what I call a game changer. Finally the US Navy has a supersonic anti ship missile in its arsenal. Pared with future LRASM with its ground braking autonomous targeting capability in GPS denied airspace and anti ship Tomahawks – US Navy will have the punch and range to combat near pear adversaries till the new generation of anti ship missiles arrives, possibly hypersonic and autonomous.

  • Alex

    Why did you sink that ship? You might have given it to Ukraine for free.