September 03, 2012
Credit: Credit: Boeing
Bill Sweetman Washington, Christina Mackenzie Paris and Andy Nativi Genoa
Maritime missiles are in a period of rapid evolution. Warships and submarines are persistent platforms with deep magazines, for long-range attacks on land targets and hostile ships. But more warships now carry effective missile-defense gun and missile systems and countermeasures, while sea traffic has continued to grow rapidly worldwide—creating a major challenge in terms of collateral damage.
Some of the biggest decisions in the past year involve the U.S. Navy, which is moving toward an arsenal of “net-enabled” weapons—missiles that take advantage of other sensors to find and hit targets, but can still function if communications are down. Two quick-reaction missile programs have been started recently, along with a large, expensive and remarkably low-profile airborne radar to support them.
The use of a long-range, high-resolution airborne radar to help guide net-enabled missiles to targets is an important part of the Navy's concept. Publicized tests of this concept (in early 2011) used the U.S. Air Force's E-8C Joint Stars radar platform, but documents obtained by Aviation Week show the Navy has used its own P-3C-mounted APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) in the same way.
Anti-surface warfare (ASuW) is a likely mission for the APS-149's successor, the Raytheon Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), which is now under full-scale development and will be carried by the Boeing P-8A Poseidon. While AAS is not a black program as LSRS was in its early years, it is run by a separate office from other programs and there was no competition (or public analysis of alternatives) preceding development. Its importance can be judged by the fact that—as far back as 2003—Boeing drastically changed its proposed P-8A design to accommodate it, going to the longer-bodied 737-800 platform and moving the weapons bay behind the wing.
Large radars like LSRS and AAS are important in the “net-enabled” concept because they provide more accurate identification, classification and location data than the shooter's radar, at greater range. They can provide the missile with targeting-quality updates and the location of non-target ships, while remaining outside the reach of shipboard anti-air-warfare missiles. The shooter can approach the target “cold nose” and at low level, fire and turn away.
AAS should enter service around 2016—about the same time as the Navy fields its first long-range, net-enabled ASuW weapon. In June, the Navy announced that it planned to award a sole-source contract to Raytheon to develop an interim Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW) by modifying Tomahawk Block IV missiles with new sensors and data links, with a planned in-service date of 2015.
That weapon is one of a number of developments that emerged from an OASuW study last year. The Navy is pursuing two near-term net-enabled weapons. The unpowered Raytheon AGM-154C-1 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) was part of the Joint SuW joint capabilities technology demonstration (JCTD) in 2010-11 (in captive mode) and underwent its first free-flight test in August 2011. It is due to be operational next year.