Home » News & Analysis » Navy to Demo Harpoon Missile on LCS at RIMPAC; NSM on USS Freedom by Next Deployment

Navy to Demo Harpoon Missile on LCS at RIMPAC; NSM on USS Freedom by Next Deployment

A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California in September 2014. US Navy photo.

A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California in September 2014. US Navy photo.

This post has been updated to include additional information from Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Littoral Combat Ship program is poised to make big strides this year in its strike capability, both with over-the-horizon missiles and the shorter-range Longbow Hellfire missile.

The Independence-variant USS Coronado (LCS-4) will deploy later this year with the Boeing-built Harpoon anti-ship missile, and engineering is underway to outfit USS Freedom (LCS-1) with the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), a partnership between Kongsberg Defence Systems and Raytheon.

Program Executive Officer for Littoral Combat Ships Rear Adm. Brian Antonio told USNI News in a May 2 interview that the Harpoon system will be installed on Coronado within the next month, in time for an over-the-horizon missile demonstration at the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016 exercise in Hawaii this summer.

“It’s the beginning of how to incorporate OTH on LCSs,” he said.

The NSM effort is a bit farther behind, with the engineering not yet complete, but the missile system integration will be done in time for Freedom’s next deployment.

Antonio said the OTH missile effort falls into four categories: demonstrating the capability on Coronado and Freedom in the near term to “show that LCS is capable of having a long stick;” building a missile system into new LCSs; backfitting the systems into existing LCSs; and designing a missile into the frigate design.

The program office is looking at the last couple LCSs ahead of the transition to the frigate – the planned Fiscal Year 2017 ships – and investigating “are we able to capture with our FY 17 ships, actually starting it right from scratch and getting the shipbuilders to incorporate the right systems to be able to support OTH?” Building the systems into the frigate design will be somewhat easier, since there will be more freedom to install the system where it makes the most sense instead of where the LCS design allows for a missile launcher.

As for the backfit effort, once the PEO decides on which missile to use going forward, the program will look for opportunities during ships’ midlife availabilities, shorter maintenance availabilities and even post-delivery availabilities to insert the OTH missile system. The engineering being done on Freedom today will help inform the backfit effort, Antonio said, though the NSM/Freedom integration this year will not go as far as the full system integration that the formal program of record missile installation might include. Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Christianne Witten told USNI News that “the Navy plans to procure and install the NSM system on USS Freedom (LCS-1) prior to her next deployment. Due to constrained timelines, the system will not be fully integrated to the ships combat system and will only receive navigational data from the ship. The objective of this installation is to complete Foreign Comparative Testing and demonstrate an Over the Horizon (OTH) capability and deploy for an extended period of time on LCS.”

Still, this year’s OTH missile installation efforts will more tightly integrate the missile system with the ship than did a previous test of the NSM on Coronado, Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Pete Fanta previously told USNI News.

In addition to the OTH strike capability, the Navy is also adding a short-range missile to the LCS surface warfare mission package to help address the fast inshore attack craft threat.

“Later this year we’ll also do some surface-to-surface missile shots of the Longbow Hellfire missile – I think it’s four more this year off of a guided test vehicle,” Antonio said in the interview. The Navy began testing the modified Hellfire missile – altered to fire vertically from the ship instead of horizontally from a helicopter – last year and will continue testing the missile from test platforms rather than from an LCS in the short term.

  • Ed L

    how old is the harpoon missile now. 35? 40? years

    • Steve Skubinna

      Came into the fleet late seventies, IIRC.

      More to the point, how long have we had the LCS? And now somebody notices it doesn’t have an OTH missile?

      • DaSaint

        Better late than never. If they can figure out how to outfit 4 or 8 Harpoons in the interim, and possibly 8 NSM in the longer term, as well as possibly 16 VL Hellfires, I’d feel a lot better about these vessels from a 40 vessel class standpoint.

        • David Teer

          Adding these weapons are a good step, but the ships still cannot absorb damage.

    • David Teer

      you realize the missiles the navy are buying are not 40 years old. The latest variant of the harpoon only has slight cosmetic appearances to the original. Please tell me you really dont believe the navy is actually buying missiles that are 40 years old and use technology from the 70’s

    • DaSaint

      That’s like saying we shouldn’t be buying Seahawks also. Or P-8s as they’re 737s.

      • David Teer

        I guess the Burkes need to be scraped since they are based off a 30 year old design

  • RobM1981

    I am irritated every time they refer to this as a frigate. It’s not, and it never has been, and we all know that. It was properly named the first time, and it was given the name of a very small gunboat, basically. And that is what it is.

    Why not call it a battlecruiser, or a trireme? That’s just as accurate.

    This has always been the problem with a peacetime, “professional” navy. Way too interested in politics.

    • Steve Skubinna

      What matters is whether it identifies as a frigate. Were it to identify as a CVN you would be obligated to refer to it as such.


      • Mister Jones

        I sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter. Ever since I was a boy I dreamed of soaring over the oilfields dropping hot sticky loads on disgusting foreigners. People say to me that a person being a helicopter is Impossible and I’m fvcking retarded but I don’t care, I’m beautiful. I’m having a plastic surgeon install rotary blades, 30 mm cannons and AMG-114 Hellfire missiles on my body. From now on I want you guys to call me “Apache” and respect my right to kill from above and kill needlessly. If you can’t accept me you’re a heliphobe and need to check your vehicle privilege. Thank you for being so understanding.

        • sferrin

          “Apache”? That’s racist.

          • Steve Skubinna

            Actually, Noam Chomsky has already criticized the way we name weapons, and used “Apache” as an example. Apparently he believes that we use demeaning and mocking terms rather than try to denote qualities we respect.

      • sferrin

        You keep that up you’re going to trigger somebody somewhere. 😉

        • Steve Skubinna

          Jeez, I sure hope so. Haven’t had a hysterical spittle flecked SJW get in my face in a long time.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    I was thrilled when I read the headline, but disappointed when I read the story. I actually thought that the Navy was going to use the Harpoon on the LCS. It would have answered oh so many questions about shock tests and survivability.

    • Steve Skubinna

      No self respecting Harpoon would deign to strike such an insignificant target. It would be so outraged that it would return to the launch platform and hit it instead.

  • Ed L

    you think that even a small VSL would have been installed in the design of the LCS ships. lack of foresight? these vessels would not last 5 minutes in a fight with a world war one torpedo boat.

    • David Teer

      Lockheed designed three variants of the LCS varying from 2000 tons to 4500 tons. The navy had the design altered to remove the VLS in order to reduce the cost. The LCS was never intended to be a combat ship. Its original missions were mine nuetralization, sub hunting, and off shore patrol (ie chasing priates and drug runners). Saudi Arabia tenatively agreed to buy 4 of lockheed original design with VL installed but they would have cost around 1.3 billion apiece. The Saudia backed out

      • Ed L

        it’s sad,that so much to be wasted on a vessel that can’t even defend itself against a missile attack. I bet the Fleet Sailors really miss the Perry class Frigates. I mean and 8 cell VLS using even the old SM-2 would have been better just relying on the RAM to for protection. What’s is the effective range of the RAM? 3 miles? A 2 pound gun instead of a 6 pounder. Of course with no tenders available anymore. The LCS has to reply on shore facilities

        • David Teer

          RAM is about five miles. The secretary of the navy at one time mention adding Mk 57 launchers to give the lcs the about to carry essm. That was when they first announced the conversion to the frigate. Have not heard anything about it done

          • sferrin

            Better to have a self-defense length Mk41. 8-cells for 32 ESSMs.

          • David Teer

            From what the navy said the LCS cannot be fitted with a MK41 or 42 launcher. Any vertical launcher would have to be above deck like the mk57

        • magic3400

          The ENTIRE US Navy has a problem defending itself against AS missiles. Yes, the entire fleet. It’s simply a matter of numbers.

          “In a sweeping 2013 paper on the carrier’s future, Navy Capt. Henry Hendrix estimated China could produce 1,227 DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missiles for the cost of a single U.S. carrier.”[1]

          “… estimates that the range of the DF-21D anti-ship missile to be 1,500–1,750 nautical miles and some speculate the range to be greater.[1]

          “Recognizing the fact that these numbers will require placing the carrier strike groups (or surface action groups) well outside of their range, former Naval War College Dean Robert Rubel observed that “a successful defense of a carrier does no good if the carrier cannot in turn succeed in attacking enemy naval forces.”[1]

          “The world, of course, is not standing still. Missile ranges and speeds will increase. Missiles will become more elusive and accurate  —  and could be nuclear-tipped. Sensors will see further and more accurately, significantly reducing the fog of war. Surface ships, no matter where located, will be increasingly vulnerable.”[1]

          “Supercavitating torpedoes  —  such as the Russian Shkval  —  already travel at 200 knots per hour and can track ships for more than 1,000 kilometers. Above the surface, supersonic anti-ship missiles that currently travel at Mach 2 will be replaced by hypersonic missiles that will travel at Mach 5, and Mach 10 and Mach 25.”[1]

          From the CVN to the LCS, the US Navy has a problem with defending itself.

          [1] “The U.S. Navy is risking everything on a fatally flawed technology” – from War is Boring by David W. Wise

          • Ed L

            Guess the government better start handing out M-16’s with a hundred rounds of ammo to each able body citizen 16 and up

          • magic3400

            I think directed energy will go a long way in closing the missile gap. But yeah, it’s good plan B.

          • sferrin

            Judas. . ..

  • Jim DiGiacomo

    The LCS was designed to include the non line of sight launch system, NLOS-LS, so there should be room for any OTH missile; the Harpoon is obsolete. Even the Hellfire should be replaced by the Brimstone 2.

    • David Teer

      Yes it is, that is why Boeing has designed and built a new generation of the missile know as the “Harpoon Next Generation”. The new missile has a 150 mile range and land attack capability and the option to use GPS guidance. In addition to the harpoon, the navy also has access to the naval strike missile and by 2018 Lockheeds new long range anti ship missile.

  • magic3400

    While our adversaries field weapon systems with range 1500-3000nm and travel at 2, 3, 5 times the speed of sound the US Navy is puttering around with Harpoons with ranges of less than 500nm and are subsonic.

    Where is Billy Mitchell when you need him???

    • sferrin

      Which fantastical wonder weapon is this?field weapon systems with range 1500-3000nm and travel at 2, 3, 5 times the speed of sound”

      Which fantastical wonder weapon is this?

      • magic3400

        LOL…this is not exactly top secret. Anyone with even a passing interest in defense/military knows this. Guess you are a bit behind the times. If you are going to comment, time to do some reading so you don’t look like a Noob.

        USNI News
        1) India Set to Sell Super Sonic Anti-Ship Cruise Missile to Vietnam
        Based on the Russian P-800 Onyx, the BrahMos is a supersonic anti-ship missile, developed in tandem between New Delhi and Moscow for the past decade, and is arguably one of the most deadly anti-ship missiles in any nation’s inventory — almost entirely for its speed.

        India has been keen to export the Mach 3 missile for years, but met resistance from Russia over intellectual property issues that have since been resolved, according to a Wednesday report from Jane’s Defense Weekly.

        USNI News
        2) “In the last several years, Chinese missile technology has been dominated by DF-21D so-called carrier killer missile.

        “China is fielding a limited but growing number of conventionally armed medium- range ballistic missiles, including the CSS-5 Mod 5 (DF-21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM),” read the report.
        “The CSS-5 Mod 5 gives the PLA the capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean. The CSS-5 Mod 5 has a range exceeding 1,500 km and is armed with a maneuverable warhead.”

        The missile — which U.S. officials claim is operational — has never been seen in use and there’s little evidence the PLA has developed the information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to guide the missile effectively to a moving carrier target.

        Russia testing 6-Mach Zircon hypersonic missile
        3) The new, highly secretive missile would be able to fly five to six times faster than the speed of sound, the source added.

        Zircon missiles would be mounted on the newest fifth-generation nuclear-powered Husky-class submarines.

        Features of the new hypersonic missile are not found in public sources. Earlier in February, it was revealed that the Russian Navy’s nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great) would also be armed with hypersonic cruise missiles by 2022.

        A military source told TASS the cruiser will be refitted with the brand new multirole 3S-14 vertical launch systems, which house three types of anti-ship missiles, including Zircon, Onyx and Kalibr.

        Zircon will probably replace P-800 Onyx and Kalibr NK missiles. Both have supersonic anti-ship capabilities, while Kalibr can cover long-range distances of up to 4,000 kilometers and carry a 500kg warhead. The combat-proven cruise missile was seen in action last year, when it was deployed against Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) defenses in Syria.

        4) Modern Russian anti-ship missiles, like Onyx, have an operational speed of up to 2.6 Mach (750 m/s or 2,700 km/h). The sea-based Kalibr cruise missile travels at a mere 0.9 M speed, yet when approaching the target its warhead speeds up to 2.9 M.