Littoral Combat Ship Fires a Standard Missile 6 from Experimental Launcher at Sea

October 25, 2023 11:09 AM - Updated: January 23, 2024 5:48 PM
USS Savannah (LCS-26) fires an SM-6 from a Lockheed Martin Mk 70 containerized missile launcher on Oct. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Navy fired a Standard Missile 6 from an experimental missile launcher mounted on a Littoral Combat Ship Tuesday in the Eastern Pacific, the sea service announced.
Photos of the test show the system firing the SM-6 from the launcher positioned on the flight deck of USS Savannah (LCS-26).

Savannah “conducted a live-fire demonstration in the Eastern Pacific Ocean utilizing a containerized launching system that fired an SM-6 missile at a designated target,” reads the statement from U.S. Naval Surface Force to USNI News.

“The exercise demonstrated the modularity and lethality of Littoral Combat Ships and the ability to successfully integrate a containerized weapons system to engage a surface target. The exercise will inform continued testing, evaluation and integration of containerized weapons systems on afloat platforms.”

A Navy spokesman would not confirm the launcher when asked by USNI News, but the photos show a Lockheed Martin Mk 70 containerized launching system. The MK 70 launcher is one of four prototype launchers – based on the MK 41 vertical launch system used aboard the Navy’s guided-missile warships – Lockheed Martin completed for the U.S. Army as part of the service’s Typhon program

“That partnership enabled us to leverage technologies across our ships, launchers and combat systems programs to design, develop, integrate and quickly deliver a solution to meet the Army’s mission requirements,” Joe DePietro, Lockheed Martin general manager and vice president, said in a statement at the time.

Typhon is part of a new Army effort to field land-based precision fires with ranges up to thousands of miles. In addition to the SM-6, the MK 70 can also fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

The Army and Marines began developing land-based Tomahawk launchers in 2019 following the expiration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia that forbade all land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

“The ban applied to missiles with nuclear or conventional warheads but did not apply to sea-based or air-delivered missiles,” according to a June 27, 2019, Congressional Research Service report about the treaty.

The risk the 1987 treaty hoped to avert was a nuclear missile system that could secretly launch close to a country’s border with little to no warning unlike the massive intercontinental ballistic missiles that would give more warning to an adversary.

In addition to the Standard Missile family and TLAMS, Lockheed has also tested deploying an Army Patriot anti-air PAC-3 missile from a MK 41.

USS Savannah (LCS-26) fires an SM-6 from a Lockheed Martin Mk 70 containerized missile launcher on Oct. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

USNI News reported last month the containerized launcher and an Army Q-53 counterfire radar was spotted on Savannah’s flight deck while the LCS was in port in San Diego, Calif. It’s unclear what radar and combat system was used to cue and fire the missile, however, USNI News understands the MK 70 has been used with multiple radar systems.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office fired an SM-6 using a similar containerized missile launcher from the autonomous Ghost Fleet Overlord test ship Ranger in 2021.

The Navy conducted a similar test with the Naval Strike Missile in 2014 aboard USS Coronado (LCS-4) ahead of the system being installed in Independence-class LCS deploying to the Western Pacific.

The latest missile test comes as the Navy is set to start upgrades to the LCS it will keep in inventory to increase the lethal power of the ships.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

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