Navy Rapid Capabilities Process Can Now Deploy New Weapons Faster

January 23, 2024 10:01 PM
USS Savannah (LCS-28) fires an SM-6 from a Lockheed Martin Mk 70 containerized missile launcher on Oct. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. – In 2021, unmanned surface vessel Ranger sailed from the West Coast with an innocuous shipping container that hid a guided-missile launcher.

Off the coast of California, the container opened and fired a Standard Missile 6 – ordinarily a mainstay of guided-missile warships equipped with powerful air search radars and the complex Aegis Combat System.

The experiment unshackled the SM-6 missile from a $2 billion warship using a portable version of the Aegis combat system and connections to off board sensors to hit a target over the horizon, Jim Juster, the chief technology officer of Program Executive Officer Integrated Warfare Systems and a former surface warfare officer, said earlier this month at the Surface Navy 2024 exposition.

“What we did was take some mature technology that a DoD partner developed. We put it together with a portable version of the Aegis combat system that we developed [and] we put that together with an over-the-horizon targeting loop,” Juster said.
“When we integrated those three things together, we now had a portable version of the Aegis combat system that we could stick some place besides a destroyer or cruiser.”

Weapons tests on ships is nothing new across the myriad of the research arms in the Pentagon, but getting the capability to the fleet sometimes proved elusive, Juster said.

“That’s usually where we stopped. And my boss for a long time looked at me and said, ‘cool experiment, now what?’ and that’s usually where we would end,” Juster said.

The experiment on the Ranger was different and is proving out a new way to rapidly field new types of weapons across the U.S. military by mixing and matching mature capabilities across the services to field an operational capability in months instead of years. To that end, PEO IWS stood up its own rapid capabilities office last year. The new office, which Juster oversees, formalizes the experimentation and gets the capabilities to the fleet.

“Here’s the trick: Within existing authorities that acquisition organizations have, we can authorize things to go on deployment … if we can find the money for it, we can go and field that,” Juster said.
“That’s how we can do rapid capability. It doesn’t solve every problem. It doesn’t solve aircraft carriers and it doesn’t solve quantum cryptography.”

For example, the idea behind the test on Ranger morphed into the Army’s Typhon missile system, which is based around a Lockheed Martin Mk 70 launcher that can plug into a variety of radars. The Army plans to field the first Typhon in the Pacific later this year, according to a report in Breaking Defense.

The Typhon system was then tested in a live fire experiment aboard Littoral Combat Ship USS Savannah (LCS-26) using the Lockheed Martin MK 70 and an Army Q-53 counterfire radar, USNI News first reported last year.

A similar experiment aboard an LCS with a Naval Strike Missile in 2014 eventually led to the Navy awarding a contract for the missiles, four years later with the first missiles deploying a year after that.

Now, under the new deployment construct, a tested version of the SM-6 launcher could deploy as an operational tool.

“That’s now offensive strike capability we can stick somewhere else,” Juster said.
“If we can find the money, we can authorize these things. We can send them on deployment. This is the thing we can do if you want to have more players on the field, if you want to have more shooters where we don’t have them already. This is one way to do it.”


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.
Follow @samlagrone

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