Home » Aviation » Navy Set to Deploy New Lethal Anti-Surface ‘Tactical Cloud’ Later this Year

Navy Set to Deploy New Lethal Anti-Surface ‘Tactical Cloud’ Later this Year

A Harpoon anti-surface missile is launched from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) in 2014. US Navy Photo

A Harpoon anti-surface missile is launched from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) in 2014. US Navy Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Navy is creating an offensive anti-surface network that will tie targeting information from satellites, aircraft, ships, submarines and the weapons themselves to form a lethal “kill web” designed to keep pace with the expanding lethal power of potential adversaries, service officials outlined on Tuesday.

The scheme will use information ranging from sensors in space to the undersea to share information in a so-called tactical cloud that will allow aircraft and ships to access a range of targeting information to launch weapons against surface targets, said Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, at the service’s program executive officer for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), in a presentation at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2016.

The All Domain Offensive Surface Warfare Capability is “integrated fires, leveraging all domains, the ability for us to utilize air-launched capabilities, surface launched capabilities and subsurface launched capabilities that are tied together with an all domain [information network],” he said.
“We call it the tactical cloud. We’re going to put data up in the cloud and users are going to go grab it and use it as a contributor to a targeting solution.”

The concept is a direct response the increased sophistication of adversary networked sensor systems.

“Specifically their ability to take all of their sensors and nets them together to project their ability to see me faster and farther away and [now] my sanctuary been decreased,” Darrah said.
“It’s about their ability to reduce the amount of space I have to operate in by tying their capability together and force me to operate from a farther distance from a threat.”

The scheme will allow the Navy to increase the effective ranges of their own weapons against surface targets.

The effort is being worked by Darrah’s office and PEO Integrated Warfare Systems in conjunction with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and is slated to deploy in some form later this year, said Rear Adm. Jon Hill, PEO IWS on Tuesday.

“How do you bring in sensor data, how do you connect that to the weapon, how do you control it to make sure that you’ve got precision engagement?” Hill said.
“That has been tested and it will be ready to deploy later this year, we’re pretty excited about that.”

NAVAIR’s Darrah walked through an anti-surface scenario with information shared via the tactical cloud in which military space assets – known as National Technical Means — share data with aircraft like F/A-18s fighters, E-2D sensor aircraft and the unmanned MQ-4C Triton. In the scenario data was combined with surface ship information from a Littoral Combat Ship and an attack submarine that also feed into the tactical cloud.

“The important part is that the nodes are able to move in and out of this kill web over the time we’re prosecuting this threat,” Darrah said.
“What you got now is a thread that’s been run through a multitude of sensors. The important piece of these is they are nodes within domains. I can replace an F-18 with a Harpoon with a JSF and another weapon [in the future]. That’s the important piece. This is about [being] role based. Role-based means I don’t care what the platform is, what I care about is the sensor that generates the information.”

The anti-surface scheme is similar to the carrier strike group Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) concept in which aircraft and ships in the strike group share their targeting information on aircraft and cruise missile threats via high-capacity data links to other ships and aircraft that might be out of sensor but not weapons range of a target. For example, an E-2D could provide targeting information on an enemy fighter to an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer that is unable to see the threat with its own radar.

“Using tactical data links is absolutely fine in this architecture, and that’s what we’ve used to go off and sink surface ships in another version of NIFC-CA,” Hill said on Tuesday.

While the concept shows promise, Darrah said there are long-term challenges to determine what data is relevant for units using the tactical cloud.

“We’re going to put data up in the cloud and users are going to go grab it and use it as a contributor to a targeting solution [but] what’s the pedigree of the data?” he said.
“Who generated it? How long has it been since it’s been refreshed? Is it actually a fidelity that’s meaningful to my weapon?”

Part of the solution to the problem will be building tools to allow users of the cloud to sort through the data.

“We have to figure that out,” he said.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Great for the department of buzzwords & desk jockeys.
    Better to just make a better, faster missile in the first place.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Better is good, faster doesn’t really help much. Better to fly high subsonic at a lower altitude (and smaller/lower visibility platform) than use a huge high mach missile that can’t fly as low, loses a ton of range and is much easier to detect and engage (though you do have a much shorter response time).

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        All well and good….
        So where would you rank the Harpoon in the pantheon of ship-to-ship missiles?
        Slow…, not exactly shaped for a low RCS and with a modest range.

        Seems like the US has the worst of all worlds.

        • Pat Patterson

          They’re trying to double the Harpoon’s range but I prefer the Norwegian missile the Navy tested.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            NSM appears to be a significant upgrade, but it’s also important to keep in mind the capabilities of the defenders. PLAN & Russian sea-based AAW systems are significantly inferior to Aegis and are far more likely than their USN adversaries to be operating with limited or no AEW. The USN is also far more likely to successfully saturate an enemy formation with ASCMs. In a straight up gunfight between 2-3 ship SAGs with no airborne ISR assets the PLAN/Russian formation would have a significant advantage, but that’s not the type of war the USN fleet is designed to fight (and hopefully the USN admirals would be competent enough to avoid such a terrible strategic scenario from playing out on a repeated or large scale).

          • CuddlyCobra

            The US has 55 ships based in the Pacific. The Chinese have over double that number of warships plus about 200 large Coast Guard Vessels and a massive maritime militia.

            The Chinese have a massive shipbuilding (convertible commercial/civilian and military) capacity while ours is on the edge of dying out.

            Counting on overpowering enemy forces through sheer numbers of missiles to make up for obsolete weaponry seems illogical. You need range and the ability to discriminate targets which NSM does well.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            If we are fighting a strict surface-to-surface engagement then we’ve thrown away 75% of the USN’s arsenal. Once it becomes a contest of Air, Surface and Submarine assets the US advantage tilts dramatically the other way. That of course requires proper strategy to bring those forces to bear and the political will to use them. The US has a significant capability gap over near-peer nations, but being able to leverage that to victory, or deterrence, is highly suspect.

          • CuddlyCobra

            I agree with you on subs giving us the advantage. The Chinese are also not currently capable of coordinating like we can.

            Will our political leadership allow anything approaching unrestricted submarine warfare similar to the Germans? Not likely.

            Our carrier planes have limited range leaving them more vulnerable compared to the past, especially with long range antiship missiles.

            Current Rules of engagement by this administration would negate current Beyond Visual Range combat assumptions for aircraft. This could change but would continue under a likely Clinton admin.

            The Surface community could possibly end up having to fight alone similar to WW2 if the South China Sea dispute went hot.

          • Ed L

            Not capable of coordinating like we can? Under estimating one opponent is something that the U.S. has unfortunate ability of doing.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

            As would I.
            ….For both surface naval & standoff F35 weapon

        • James W McCarthy

          The US Navy already has a supersonic anti ship missile with much more range than the Harpoon.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

            if the SM-6 was ever used in anger, something would have gone terribly wrong….. It’s modest warhead will shred a plane (as per its design) but it won’t take out anything bigger than a patrol boat on the surface.

          • James W McCarthy

            I’ve often heard how the relatively simple OHPs were fantastic and RUGGED surface ahips. A SM-6 missile sank one of those. A Perry is much bigger than a patrol boat.

          • Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo

            “A SM-6 missile sank one of those”.

            Did it?
            I looked for a picture or video but I couldn’t find anything?

            Such a thing would be surely documented?

          • James W McCarthy

            June 2014 The USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 into an OHP USS Reuben James sinking it.

          • Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo

            Says who though?

            There is surely a video/image of this exercise somewhere?

          • James W McCarthy

            I’m sure there’s a video. I’m not sure it’s been released

          • James W McCarthy

            There’s about a hundred links that reference the SM-6 sinking the Reuben James. There’s also stories that the SM-2 has been able to hit surface vessels for decades.
            Supposedly the SM-6 might be able to specifically hit the bridge or ANY part of a chosen vessel. It’s reasonable to assume that the capability to hit a warship isnt a secret. The true scope and capability of that type of impact could very well be secret.

          • Forst1989

            It happen joe usni already reported on it

      • So Russia China and even India are going the wrong path with high supersonic missiles?

        • @USS_Fallujah

          Different Navy has different platform capabilities, different strategies (to defeat different opponents) and thus different requirements. For the USN to sacrifice range and size of launch platforms for speed would be a major mistake. Using huge, fast missiles to try to overwhelm the CGB’s Aegis defenses is dubious, at best, IMO, but would be very intimidating to any non-Aegis Navies that might wish to cross China on territorial disputes.

  • Ken N

    Sounds great and all but it doesn’t mean much if we don’t an anti-ship missile that packs the range, speed, and punch to get the job done.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      It does give you the option for aircraft, surface ships & submarines to fire “blind” using someone else’s track. So imagine an E-2D with fighter cover sitting 350 miles off an enemy surface force and being able to fire Harpoon (or NSM) Tomahawk (or LRASM), from maximum range and without the launch platform exposing itself.
      The one big advantage of the 1,000m range of the Tomahawk is it forces an enemy surface force to either remain within shore based AEW coverage or keep their radars lit 24/7, which in turn makes them immediately trackable without needing that E-2D to provide target info.

    • James W McCarthy

      They already have it.

  • Ed L

    Shame we could not have been involved with Taiwan supersonic Anti-Ship Missile development.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Speed is not a panacea. There are huge tradeoffs in range, size and flight profile that in many scenarios dissipate the advantage gained by a shorter time to target.

    • Not to worry; I’m sure that the PLA was.

      • Pat Patterson

        Yeah, really!

  • @USS_Fallujah

    When ASB first came out this is what many thought was the real deliverable, I think of it as War-Gamification of warfare, I can track and engage a target completely removed from the ISR capability of the shooter, it gives the battle commander a godlike view of the battlespace and free range to attack when, where and with whatever best suits the tactical situation and makes the defender’s job infinitely more difficult.


    Waiting for the funding sequester to end so all this fine technology can be effectively deployed.

  • old guy

    Missile speed is, indeed, not the answer. In 1978 my guys came up with the EFASM (Evasive Flight Anti-Ship Missile, which could fly a deceptive course AND fire Anti (Anti-Ship Missiles).
    Killed by Adm Myopic.