Wednesday, September 11, 2013

LRASM Update

Defense Industry Daily (DID) has an article (1) on the Navy’s possible Harpoon replacement, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).  Here’s a few salient points.

  • The program is a DARPA research effort, not an acquisition program.  Even if the missile is successfully developed the Navy must adopt and fund it.

  • The program originally looked at two versions, LRASM-A and LRASM-B.  The –A version is a subsonic, air launched version while the –B is a heavier, high Mach, ship launched missile.  The –B version has been put on indefinite hold.

  • The LRASM-A is not currently VLS capable though there is no reason why it couldn’t be adapted to VLS.  Of course, there has been no reason the Harpoon couldn’t be adapted to VLS and, yet, it never was!

  • The proposed interim anti-ship version of Tomahawk has been cancelled, if it ever was a legitimate project.

The DID article makes the point that given the current budget situation and the Navy’s stated and demonstrated desire for new construction above all else, the funding and acquisition of the LRASM is anything but a given, no matter how great the need.  The Navy will continue to fund new construction even if they have to cut every other project to do it.  We’ll keep a close eye on this one.

By the way, do you remember the post about your enemies telling you what they fear most (if not, read it here)?  Well, if you turn it around, what do we fear the most as regards anti-ship missiles?  I’d say it’s heavy, supersonic missiles with maneuvering capability and on-board ECM.  What we don’t particularly fear is small subsonic missiles.  With that in mind, why are we pursuing the LRASM-A, a small subsonic missile?  Is it just me or does something not seem right about this?  Also by the way, didn’t we develop the Mk57 peripheral vertical launch cell specifically to handle larger missiles?  Wouldn’t this seem to be an ideal match between the launch system and the LRASM-B?  Of course, I don’t know if the –B would even fit in the Mk57 but you get the idea – we developed the larger cells to handle larger missiles and now we’re going to develop a smaller anti-ship missile.  What????


  1. Your Google-Fu has failed you :)

    LRASM-A is planned for VLS use and here is the Youtube Vid showing the VLS push thru test.

    Here are the details in a LM Presser.

    1. My exact statement was "The LRASM-A is not currently VLS capable though there is no reason why it couldn’t be adapted to VLS." A push through test is not VLS capability. It's the first baby step on the way to VLS and it may or may not be pursued to completion.

    2. Oops! Inadvertently stopped too soon.

      A Harpoon could undoubtedly do a push through test but it's not VLS capable in USN service.

    3. Sorry, when you said "no reason why it couldn’t be adapted to VLS", I took that to mean you did not know that it is being certified for VLS.

      Here are snippets from the FY2014 Budget docs about FYxx development plans:

      FY 2012 Accomplishments:

      Long Range Anit-Ship Missile (LRASM):
      -Initiate and complete fabrication of flight hardware.
      -Initiate and complete launch canister expulsion tests.
      -Initiate and complete booster separation flight tests.
      -Initiate and complete integrated flight tests.

      FY 2013 Plans:
      - Modify booster adapter structure which mates standard Mk-114 booster clamp to missile body aft end.
      - Complete detailed design of new hybrid canister with solid-wall section on forward end and corrugated side panels on aft end.
      - Analyze shock and fly-out performance for the missile and canister.
      - Complete minor airframe design modifications for canister fit and internal structure/composite skin strengthened to react to vertical launch loads.

      FY 2014 Plans:
      - Complete missile and canister integration for a surface launched system.
      - Perform two controlled test vehicle flights from the Vertical Launching System.

    4. "... I took that to mean you did not know that it is being certified for VLS."

      Ignore that man behind the curtain.

      Apologies to the Wizard of Oz!

  2. We likely would fear stealthy, subsonic AShMs, if any of our adversaries were making them.

    1. Possible but I would still fear a much bigger, supersonic missile with on-board ECM more! If it hits, you're done. Barring horrendously bad luck, a small Harpoon-ish size subsonic, stealthy ASM is not as big a concern. There's a reason the Chinese DF-XX is called the carrier killer and an Exocet isn't!

    2. The problem with the big supersonic missiles is that they are big supersonic missiles. Size wise they are pretty massive. They have pretty large radar signatures and pretty incredible IR signatures.

      Damage wise, the warheads are actually smaller than the LRASM design. For example the BrahMos has a 200-300KG (navel/airlaunch) warhead while LRASM has a 1000 lb warhead and the LRASM weighs less than half the weight of the BrahMos. The C-803 from china only has a 165KG warhead.

      And that's actually a general trend with SS AShM, they are physically bigger, generally weigh multiples of a subsonic, and contain much smaller warheads straight up (and even more so given their size).

      Also almost all SS AShM are detectable from long range because in order to get their speed they have to fly at higher altitude.

  3. Why are we pursuing LRASM and not some large SS AShM?

    Because SS AShM tend to be large and heavy and easily detectable. They significantly trade surprise for speed. They also tend to have significant issues with being on airplanes, esp non-land based airplanes.

    LRASM-A is small, lightweight, extremely hard to detect and has a large warhead. It also has excellent range. LRASM-A will fit within all existing and future infrastructure (internal carry on naval fighters and Mk41 and Mk56 VLS cells).

    So the reality is that LRASM-A has a low chance to be detected and a high chance of actually hitting.

    And yes, LRASM-A is a DARPA program, which means that the Navy isn't footing the bill for its development. It will merely have to pay for production costs. And if the Navy isn't willing to fund production of it than they have no need to build any ships, so that solves any Navy budget issues right there.

    Seriously, if they navy won't pay for production, congress should simply tell them that they don't need any ships. Cancel the build budget until the Navy agrees to fully fund production. To do anything else is a massive failing of both congress and the USN. The USN needs a viable AShM that can be quickly and easily deployed on their ships, without a viable AShM, the USN isn't worth funding.

    1. Before we go any further, let me state clearly that I'm all in favor of any new anti-ship missile whether small and subsonic or large and supersonic.

      As you say, supersonic ASMs tend to be large, heavy, and detectable. They also tend to be very difficult to stop due to their extreme speed which makes for a very short engagement window and very difficult intercept geometry. They also have around 30 times the kinetic energy to far more than compensate for the smaller warhead.

    2. ats, you made quite a leap there, linking the purchase of ASMs to the existence of the Navy. I'm not sure I completely understand your point. Want to expand on it a bit?

    3. A Navy that cannot defend itself is not a viable Navy. The completely and utter lack of effective offensive naval firepower for the USN at large is a grave detriment to the USN being able to do anything remotely effective in an actual wartime scenario.

      If all we need is for the navy to launch tomahawks and jet fighters, we can do that at significantly reduced cost without actually constructing a new Navy vessel for 10-20 years. We can cancel building any new amphib development and construction because the enemy is either going to be too weak to stop our current amphib strategy or we won't be able to get any amphib within 200 miles of shore. We can cancel the FLT III burkes because they won't provide any effective capability over the FLT II burkes already in the fleet. We can halt new carrier builds and simply refurb and refuel existing carriers because they'll work for another 20 years acting as simple mobile runways in low intensity conflicts. We can cancel the LCS or any other frigates and just buy more cost guard cutters because they won't be effective is anything but an anti-piracy role anyways or as permissive mind sweepers, and cheaper USCG cutters can do those jobs just as well.

      My point is that a Navy that cannot conduct naval warfare doesn't need new ships. There are plenty of navies around the world that operate just fine with old cast off USN ships as long as they aren't called upon to engage in actual naval warfare.

      Without a viable and effective AShM, the USN does not have a viable way of conducting naval warfare. If that is the case, then there is no need to invest in a large USN fleet to do naval warfare. The only thing the USN needs at that point is functional carriers and BM submarines. We don't need new burkes and we don't need OHP replacement naval frigates.

      A viable and effective AShM is central to a viable navy. Therefore if the USN is unwilling to invest in a viable and effective AShM then it is unwilling to be a viable Navy and should be funded as such.

    4. SS AShM tend to have ~12x the kinetic energy, not 30x. The engagement windows between a stealth sub-sonic and a super-sonic AShM tend to be roughly about equal with a slight edge to the stealth sub-sonic. Sub-sonic missiles also tend to be more maneuverable than SS missiles of this size.

    5. The Navy has performed ASuW without AShMs. Granted, our opponents haven't had much in the way of air defenses, so LGBs have worked just fine. Within visual range, using SM-2/ESSM in anti-surface mode seems to work pretty well.

      FLT III Burkes are meant to improve ABM and AShM defense in the face of more advanced missiles. It will also allow a Burke to perform simultaneous ABM and AShM defense. Right now an ABM-capable Burke can only perform one or the other at a time.

    6. ats, the Wiki (a suspect source, admittedly!) article on the PJ-10 BrahMos credits the missile with 32X the kinetic energy of the Tomahawk which is reasonably representative of a subsonic missile. Also, basic physics allows simple calc of the momentum of an object from (momentum = mass x velocity). With a speed of Mach 3 and a weight ten times heavier, that gives a momentum (essentially kinetic energy) of 30X. Do you have different numbers?

    7. Another variable is quantity over "quality". An aircraft or ship can carry three LRASM-As for every Brahmos, weight-wise.

    8. Where in the world are you getting a 10 times heavier weight from? Brahmos weighs 2.5-3 tons. LRASM is at just over 1 ton. And the Brahmos loses a larger fraction of its weight during flight than LRASM (takes a lot more energy to run at 2.8 vs .89ish).

    9. b smitty, with modern AShM, you aren't going to ever be within visual range with a peer/near-peer foe. They all have 100-300nmi AShM. SMs will only be useful for trying to shoot them down.

      and a FLT III burke still cannot engage in naval warfare with a peer/near-peer since it doesn't have a viable modern AShM.

      and peer/near-peers have AA capability that is close to ours. Getting in range for LGB is going to be very very costly.

    10. Just because you have missiles with that range doesn't mean you'll be able to target that far out, or start hostilities at beyond visual range.

      The Burke is primarily an escort. Air power and subs do most of the ship killing work for us.

      We have other efforts underway such as SDB II and the various moving target capabilities for JDAM.

      In some ways, we can treat a high-end AAW surface combatant the same way we treat SEAD/DEAD efforts ashore. HARM shots to soften up the air defenses, followed by JDAM/SDB/JSOW/SLAM-ER.

    11. as for he quantity over quality, I think that its more an issue over speed vs quantity. Both can be quality, but the number of SS AShM you can fit on a ship is severely limited. VLS becomes a lot harder with something the size of BrahMos since its so big. Weight goes up significantly as well. Also, air launched runs into all types of weight issues. BrahMos is just massive. ~28 ft long, its roughly half the length of a SH. To put it in perspective, this is what an air launched BrahMos looks like:

    12. Russian/Indian/Chinese AShM can take targeting ques from satellite and a carrier is pretty easy to spot with Synthetic aperture radar from space. Most of the modern AShM are designed for with post launch satellite based target selection or autonomous target detection.

      A CSG generally only has a single sub and that sub generally isn't close to 2-300 nmi away from the carrier (close to 10 hours out).

      And I'm skeptical about treating high end naval warfare like land based engagements. Esp since we open land based engagements against sub-par foes with volleys of Tomahawk cruise missiles and high end stealth bombers. We don't rely on SH to soften defenses. And most modern navy ships have better AA capability than ground bases but much better self defense vs air attack than SAM sites.

      If the answer is to run away and call in B1/B2 bombers, then I would ask the question why do we even have a navy. Bombers tend to be cheaper in the long run. For the cost of the current carriers+planes we could have built well over 200 B2 bombers. And we'd of saved a ton in man power costs over the years.

    13. I would certainly like to see LRASM-A produced, both for the Navy and USAF. I was just pointing out that we have significant ASuW capabilities outside of ship-based AShMs.

    14. ats, oops! My bad. I read the JASSM weight of 1000 kg as lbs. The SS-N-22 Sunburn (my favorite) is listed as around 10,000 lb. Hence, 10x. Should be around 5x for a 15x kinetic energy factor.

    15. Meh, for the heavyweights, I'd go with the P-700/SS-N-19 Shipwreck.

      7000kg launch weight
      750kg warhead
      310 nmi range

      Its the missile India wanted to base the BrahMos off of but wasn't allowed to.

    16. I'm all for Shipwreck if we had the room. I like the Sunburn as a nice balance of size and capability. Maybe we should be building Kirovs instead of Zumwalts?

    17. It's much harder to shoot down five LRASMs than one Sunburn.

    18. "It's much harder to shoot down five LRASMs than one Sunburn."

      I don't know that's true. Conversely, I don't know that's false. This is the crux of the matter. Is sheer speed harder to defeat than stealth (or vice versa)? And is the difference (either way) significant?

      None of us have any data on which to base a definitive statement (or, if anyone does, please share it!). We're left to speculate. My feeling, based on no data, is that speed is much, much harder to defeat. The engagement window is so short and the speed makes the intercept geometry so difficult that we'll be lucky to get a single shoot-shoot-look sequence. The intercept geometry/speed probably means that only the targeted ship will be able to engage, as opposed to "area" ships. Finally, stealth is not what it once was. All manufacturers of sensors today claim to be able to detect stealth. Of course, we take manf's claims with a healthy dose of skepticism! The US military has publicly suggested that stealth is a lesser desired characteristic because it is becoming easier to detect.

      I would reverse your statement and say that it is much easier to shoot down five LRASMs than one Sunburn. That said, I can't dispute your statement with any actual facts!

    19. Some in the US military have said that stealth is a lesser desired characteristic, but the primary purveyor, the USAF, still appears to believe strongly in it. I find it hard to take the critics seriously, unless they are making a purely cost-effectiveness statement. Stealth is and will remain desirable even in the face of more powerful enemy radars.

      Both stealth and speed compress the engagement timeline, albeit through different mechanisms.

      Speed shortens the intercept sequence by covering the distance from first detection faster, but at the cost of GREATLY increased signature (both radar and IR, and min missile altitude). This allows ships to see incoming missiles from much further out.

      You're right though, so much depends on the particulars. The term "stealth" is so broadly used as to be almost meaningless these days. Companies slap a few faceted or sloped features on something and declare it "stealthy".

      The terms Low Observable (LO ~ -10 to -15 dbsm), Very Low Observable (VLO ~ -25 to -45 dbsm), and Extremely Low Observable (ELO ~ < -45 dbsm) are somewhat better.

      LO aircraft are typically 4th generation aircraft with some RCS reduction applied (e.g. Super Hornet). VLO are "true" stealth aircraft like the B-2 and F-22. ELO has been discussed with the NGB.

      And all of this is frequency and aspect dependent. The F-35 may very well be VLO from the frontal aspect but LO the rest of the way around. Where the B-2 is VLO from most aspects.

      I haven't seen any hints as to JASSM's signature level, but I would guess it is VLO at least over the front quarter, maybe even pushing into ELO, given its small size (relative to an aircraft).

      So when someone says they can detect "stealth" aircraft, do they mean LO aircraft? VLO? ELO? At what range? At what range can they detect VLO missiles at 5m above sea level?

      Ultimately I agree though. I can't say for sure that stealth or speed is better. I do know that you can carry five LRASMs for the weight of one Sunburn. And that means I can theoretically kill five ships vs one for the Sunburn.

      I can spend less topside weight and area for the same number of AShMs using smaller, subsonic missiles. I can also spend less on them (in theory) because they are based on an existing missile. And, I have the potential to use them in land-attack mode since they are based on JASSM. And, I can share development between air-launched and ship-launched AShMs.

      So I still think LRASM-A makes a lot of sense for the USN.

    20. Do hypersonic AShM's ever sea skim in their flight profile? Does this affect observability?

      I thought there was an AShM out there that had a rocket booster to help it in the kill phase, so that it was a cruise missile getting close, then it went supersonic. Is this a good compromise?

      I too don't have any data on this. My completely gut feeling is that while speed is awesome, I think ultimately you'll be able to see computerized systems handle it. I don't want to be anywhere near an engagement between two hyper fast robots and their weapons.

      Where I think the Hypersonic AShM's might have an advantage is just the mission kill aspect. If I'm a Burke and I shoot a Brahmos successfully, how likely is it that that massive missile body is going to shred and keep going along the line of its last access, and potentially mission kill me by cutting up radars and sensors?

      I don't know, its just a guess.

      All that said, I think that to a certain extent the Frigate argument comes into play. We'd all like a super capable frigate, right? I'd love it if the USN had both types of missiles. But right now, we only, barely, have enough for one. And the LRASM is probably alot easier to finish and get to the fleet. It might be very good, it might just be sufficient. But its something. And, given that we can load it on aircraft, submarines, and surface vessels, it has alot of utility for us. If we had a smaller fleet or one of different composition, then a hypersonic missile might look alot different because they such fleets don't cart around their air cover with them.

    21. The problem ComNavOps, is that you seem to think that a SS missile becomes visible at the same distance as something like LRASM and therefore the engagement window is limited. This is not the case. To hit those high SS speeds, the SS missiles aren't sea skimming. They are also significantly larger and require certain features that have heightened radar signatures. On top of this they are a blowtorch in a dark room to any IR sensor.

      This all means that in general, SS AShM are detected much farther away than even plain subsonic sea skimmers.

      As far as the terminal intercept with an AA missile, the SS missiles do gain some from closing speed but the differential isn't that much. You are looking at a closing speed difference of mach 4/5 to mach 6-7. The big AA missile are already going mach 3-4+ during intercept.

      And stealth still matters the same way it has always mattered, it reduces the distance/time from detection to target.

    22. Jim, almost all SS AShM are high arc flight profiles. They need to be to hit their speeds and range numbers. There are some missiles which are subsonic to horizon and then do a supersonic sprint to target, but they generally give up a lot in warhead size to achieve it.

      Final intercept maneuverability advantage is almost always significantly in interceptors favor. The interceptor is generally much lower weight, has much better thrust vectoring, and is specifically designed for high G maneuvers.

      As far as intercept debris issues, it heavily depends on the missiles flight profile and when it is intercepted. Almost all AShM are designed and plan for full power through impact. What this means is that on almost any flight profile and any intercept not at point blank, the debris is unlikely to hit the ship it was aiming for. Physics basically works against it.

      The other thing to consider with hypersonic missiles is that in order to pack them in, you really need a much bigger ship. For example, to fit in the VLS cells for the Shipwreck missile, the Russian went to 24KT cruiser.

    23. ats, Wiki lists the Sunburn as having a cruise altitude of 20 meters and the BrahMos as 3-4 meters. I'm not sure how much more sea-skimming they can get without being a torpedo!

      If the choice between small/subsonic and big/supersonic was as clear as you suggest, why has the Navy deemed the Harpoon obsolete and incapable? Why would they not just slap a slanted body on it and be done with it? Why did DARPA even begin to investigate the -B version if it was so obviously inferior? Why are India and Russia, among other countries, bothering to develop big/supersonic missiles?

      You are making assumptions about detection distances and whatnot. That's fine. Neither of us have any data whatsoever to support our positions. You may well be correct. On the other hand, you may well be wrong. Lacking any data, I respect your position and acknowledge its possible validity. Presumably, you respect and acknowledge mine. That's what makes these discussions fun!

    24. The BrahMos website lists its terminal altitude as low as 10m but as high as 15km. I'd be interesting to see the range/altitude profiles. If it has to climb to 15km to reach max range, it could be detected hundreds of miles away.

      In an attempt to quantify the situation, let's assume a notional destroyer radar is 20m above the waterline. Let's also assume a BrahMos approaches at Mach 3 at 10m altitude and radar is powerful enough to pick up the unstealthy BrahMos as soon as it crests the radar horizon.

      The radar horizon for this engagement is right around 17nm. At 1984kts (mach 3), a BrahMos will cover the distance in 30.8 seconds.

      A stealthy missile traveling at 600kts and 4m above the water would have to approach to within 5.1 miles before being seen to allow for a similar engagement window.

      Let's assume the radar is equivalent to an S-300/400 class Russian system.

      Looking here,

      Assuming an RCS in the -45 dbsm (~.0001m2) range for JASSM frontally, an SA-11B equivalent radar may just pick up the missile at around 5nm. An SA-20B could pick it up further, out to around 15nm.

      This assumes the radars are not impacted by surface clutter and no penaids are used by either missile.

    25. This comment has been removed by the author.

    26. Hmm, actually I believe -40 dbsm is .0001m2. Too much math for a Friday.

    27. B.Smitty, don't leave us hanging! Keep going. What does that translate into for engagement windows? What's your conclusion?

    28. Well.. My conclusion is you need one big, honkin radar to pick up a -40dbsm target at any useful range. The 64N6E Big Bird Radar used by the SA-20B is 30% larger than a SPY-1A face!

      I'm trying to find out more information on Chinese destroyer radars, but the Type 52C destroyer's radar doesn't appear to have that large of an aperture. Apparently it's AESA, but not sure how that translates into performance.

    29. ComNavOps, all the SS AShM run either a High-Low or a High-High flight profile. They basically dip down some distance before target in the High-Low profile to a ship height. In the high-high profile, they maintain altitude all the way to the ship and then barrel over straight down onto the target.

      They cannot do Low-Low because they would run out of fuel and would get slowed down by the drag. Not to mention various sea state issues vs maneuverability complexities.

      The fact that all SS AShM basically do a High-Low profile is why they can be detected so far off. And physics is against the low-low profile.

    30. I am totally unqualified to offer technical analysis of stealth airframes or radar performance. I do note, however, that during the Serbian conflict, one F-117 was detected and shot down by an SA-3 system - hardly state of the art technology. Stories have circulated that a second F-117 was hit and damaged but returned to its base. What that means for our present discussion, I don't know, but it suggests that stealth isn't a guarantee of invisibility.

    31. B.Smitty, you suggest that one needs a big, powerful radar to counter stealth. Notwithstanding my previous example of the SA-3 shootdown of the F-117, various reports and articles have suggested that radar optimized to other wavelengths can detect stealth objects. I've also read articles describing linked radar systems that can defeat stealth via detecting backscatter off the target at sites other than the transmitting site.

      For these reasons I lean towards speed over stealth. Stealth can be degraded and negated by the defense. Speed is unaffected by the defense.

    32. Ok. I was being simplistic with that remark.

      The F-117 shoot down appears to have been a case of poor mission planning (flying the same route over and over) and Serbian resourcefulness. Stealth isn't a magic shield. It simply provides a useful set of tools to reduce radar effectiveness. If you don't use the tools properly, you can still get shot down.

      Not sure that scenario relates much to an AShM engagement scenario though. Also not sure how you'd set up a useful multi static system at sea without a lot of ships.

    33. Oh, certainly stealth doesn't make you invisible, it never has, it simply reduces the range and likely hood of being detected. The effects are compounded in an ECM/jamming/EW scenario as well.

      And there certainly are trade-offs to be had with reduced observability technologies. But the reality is that Stealth SS AShM are a basic impossibility. For various reasons even in their sea skimming phases, they have to have higher flight levels, they are bigger, heavier, and have IR signatures that can easily be seen from over 100nm away.

      Now the IDEAL AShM, would be stealth subsonic until roughly 30-40nm away from target and then drop the turbine, kick in the solid rocket and scream into the target going Mach 3-4. But that's a fairly complicated and expensive missile.

      As far as the F-117 shootdown, as B.Smitty says, that was a case of horrible mission planning. We were sending F-117s along the exact same route multiple times per day for weeks. All they had to do was get the same right under the route and win. Proper planning would of had the F-117s taking multiple different and psuedo random routes.

      One thing we haven't even touched on with LRASM btw is autonomous flight navigation and target selection/rejection. LRASM and NSM/JSM are the first of a new breed of missiles which are extremely hardened against electronic counter measures by using imaging sensors and image recognition such that the the existing counter measures against missiles are basically useless. Jamming doesn't work, IR/EM decoys don't work, they can see through smoke, etc. They are pretty nice systems. One aspect of LRASM that uses its stealth well is that it detects radar emissions and navigates around them.

      Also another aspect of SS AShM is they are more vulnerable to damage due to their speed. aka, damage effects their flight envelope more than it effects sub-sonic cruise missiles.

    34. The key point about the F-117 shootdown is not the poor mission planning - it's the fact that an SA-3 missile system was able to get a sufficient return to establish a target lock.

    35. Well, there were a number of factors there:

      a) The Serbian battery had plenty of human intelligence assets. They knew when the F-117s were leaving, how many there were and roughly what route they travelled. This was helped enormously by the lack of variation in flightpaths.

      b) Because this took place over a long time period (weeks) with multiple sorties per day, the battery commander had the chance to try different wavelengths and modifications to his radar. As long as he only radiated minimally each time, it was unlikely he'd be detected, so he could continually refine his solution and test it until he hit on the right combination.

      c) The bomb bay doors were apparently open when they got the lock, raising the radar signature significantly.

      d) They launched at close range - the whole engagement was only about 17-18 seconds, at 13km. Once the doors were open, the radar return was there, the missiles were in the air and there was pretty much nowhere for the pilot to go. By all accounts, the F-117 wasn't particularly manoeuvrable at the best of times, and factoring in the time it would take to process the fact you're under attack and react, you're really out of time. Nowhere to turn, basically naked and with a pair of mach 3+ telephone poles heading your way.

    36. The web says Sunburn is slower than BrahMos (Mach 2.2 at low altitude) and flies a bit higher (20m).

      So assuming the radar is powerful enough to pick it up immediately, the ship will have a 49 second engagement window.

      In 49 seconds, a 600kt LRASM can cover ~8.2 nm.

      Another issue with supersonic missiles is the possibility of early detection by AEW aircraft. Granted, our potential opponents aren't as far along with their AEW and CEC capabilities as we are, but these are avenues they could pursue to counter unstealthy, supersonic missiles.

    37. ShockwaveLover, your observations, while valid, should cause us great concern. That a third world adversary, using antiquated technology could "refine" a radar system to detect our state of the art stealth aircraft should make us wonder what a more advanced enemy, like China, could do. I'm sure China has all the technical specs and performance data on our aircraft and missiles plus they have actual stealth aircraft of their own to practice against.

      If the mere opening of the bay doors rendered the F-117 that vulnerable, what does that suggest for the B-2, F-22, and F-35? I suspect that the bay doors were a minor factor, if at all. Either the radars were on for an extended period just waiting for someone's door to open or it was a billion to one chance occurrence or, far more likely, they were tracking the aircraft regardless of bay doors being open.

      This incident should suggest much to us about the value of stealth and may help explain why several military officials have publicly downplayed the value of stealth in future aircraft.

    38. Well, yes. I imagine stealth is designed around particular classes of threats, like most other equipment. Given enough time and access to a representative aircraft, it's not terribly surprising that even comparatively old equipment can be changed and modified in such a way as to fall outside the expected classes and take advantage of the inherent weaknesses that making something strong against a particular type of threat usually generates.

      That it happened is not a shock. It would have been more surprising, considering the circumstances, if the battery hadn't found some way of targeting the F-117.

      Stealth isn't foolproof. It's not a 100% solution - it just gives you a starting advantage. Caught at the wrong angle, or by a certain type of radar, or with open bay doors or in other conditions, it will more than likely fail, much like any other form of protection. And the more that you expose your aircraft to enemy sensors, and allow them the freedom to test, modify and then test again over long periods of time, the more the chances that your advantage will be degraded increase, slowly trending towards 1.

      Given how many decades (and generations of technology) we are after the F-117 was introduced, and the time and energy that has no doubt been invested in countering it and its descendants, yes, the value of stealth has decreased. It's no longer a silver bullet, and given a motivated enemy who has invested the requisite amount of effort, will likely have markedly less effectiveness than it has had when deployed in the past. That's to be expected. But I would wager that it still gives opposing air defence commanders a headache. Because just as stealth tech isn't perfect, the tech for defeating it isn't either. Neither is a guaranteed solution, despite manufacturer claims on both sides to the contrary.

    39. ShockwaveLover, I agree completely. Stealth isn't a magic answer. It's an aid in accomplishing a role or mission, as you stated. For me, the inference from this as it relates to our current topic is that subsonic, stealthy ASMs will not be as effective as we hope. Given a choice between emphasizing speed or stealth in a missile design, I'd opt for speed.

    40. Except that Speed isn't as effective as you believe or hope either. Remember that both the US and Russia have experience with SS AShM dating back decades, far longer than either have with stealth(and both have long been working on an succeeded at intercepting high mach hypersonic re-entry vehicles). Intercepting SS AShM is something both have far more practice with than either have with stealth. The only thing speed is giving you is time to target at this point. Engagement window is generally greater with speed. Missile survivability is generally less with speed. And then you factor in the size and weight costs for SS AShM vs stealth AShM.

      Don't know about you, but 4-1 or better ratios of stealth AShM are advantageous to me.

    41. ats, I'm not sure our likely enemies (Iran, NKorea, China) have much experience intercepting supersonic missiles. That aside, though, there's a world of difference between intercepting a ballistic missile, which is what I think you're referring to, versus intercepting a sea-skimming supersonic missile. As you undoubtedly know, the Navy's ballistic missile intercept tests are highly staged affairs designed to succeed. They bear little similarity to a combat scenario! I don't think we or our enemies have much experience with trying to stop sea-skimming supersonic missiles. The incredibly short engagement window available to stop a supersonic sea-skimmer is just a very difficult challenge.

      You say that missile survivability is less with speed. What do you base that on aside from your own conclusions (every bit as valid as my own!)? There is no public domain data on any of this, as far as I know.

      Unless you can point to some data, you've looked at the same public info I have and come to a different conclusion. Fair enough! You may be right. On the other hand, I may be right.

    42. We have experience intercepting SS cruise missile targets. Finally started buying new Coyote SSSTs.

    43. B.Smitty, I've not yet heard anything about exercise results involving Coyote or anything similar, have you? Of course, given the highly scripted and unrealistic training scenarios I'm not sure any results would mean much but, hey, it's a starting point.

    44. Other than the French intercept using Aster 30 and Australian tests with ESSM/CeaFAR/CeaMOUNT, no. ;) But Coyote has been operational since 2007/8-ish.

      We have earlier tests against Vandal target drones (modified Talos missiles), but I don't know what those test showed, or if they are relevant given the advances in AEGIS/SPY-1/SM.

  4. LRASM is also part of the USN budget under PE 0603114N

    1. SpudmanWP, I'm missing this in my references. Where are you seeing this? As I understand it, it's still a DARPA project so there's nothing for the Navy to fund. Help me out, here!

    2. US Navy budget for research and development. Part of DARPA's funding is generally flow-through from other departments. In this case, the USN was providing roughly $50m in R&D funding for LRASM through 2012.

      In the currently proposed 2014 budget, I haven't been able to identify any line items for LRASM.

    3. ats is correct, it was part of FY2012 but is not part of FY2014 that I can see as a separate line item.

      If you look at the DARPA funding page, this is the last line in the description "LRASM is a joint DARPA/Navy effort"

    4. SpudmanWP, ahh, got it. Thanks! I hope this doesn't die a funding death.

    5. LRASM is funded at least through next year in all DARPA budgets.

    6. Damn me for not being clear enough :)

      There is no FY2014 LRASM line item for the USN but DARPA is funding it through at least FY2014 (see the two separate budget docs above). The line item for DARPA actually increases in FY2015 from $150 mil to $184 mil, but includes more than just LRASM. No details are given for where any post-FY2014 monies are to be spent for this line item.

  5. Why they went for a stealthy, subsonic missile? Well, I'd imagine it has a lot to do with risk. With things the way they are, budget-wise, building off of an existing platform (JASSAM-ER) is generally a good move. It's a known quantity, with lots of tests, data and and people experienced with it. It probably came down to a question of whether, with the chance of a fumble at the handoff being so high, they wanted to add yet *another* risk to a fairly urgent program. The US hasn't had large, supersonic (let alone high-mach) missile in service since the SRAM was phased out, and that was designed in 60s.

    RATTLRS and other defunct programs aside, I guess DARPA decided discretion was the better part of valour. Is it great? No. Do I (completely unqualified as I am) think it's the right choice in the circumstances? Yeah, I'd say so. Better less-than-optimal capability with a higher chance of going through, than the alternative. Baby steps.

    1. SL, it's quite likely you're right! The DID article I cited in the post hinted at that, as well. If that's the reasoning, I have no problem whatsoever with the decision. I would hope the Navy (DARPA) would continue to develop a larger, supersonic missile as funding permits.

    2. DARPA is funding ultra-high speed missile work as part of their hypersonic track. I would imagine when they have a viable hypersonic missile design, they'll start looking at seeker technologies to add to it. There doesn't appear to be any work going on for general supersonic missiles.

  6. The US does possess state of the art supersonic target. Ironically we use them to simulate attacks from Russian style supersonic AShM to test our own ship borne defense. I mean if we truly want a high speed AShW, why can't we just add guidance and warhead to the existing airframe?

    1. I'm guessing you're referring to the GQM-163 Coyote supersonic target drone? If so, the Navy has, indeed, looked at adapting that but has not pursued it. I don't know why. Wiki lists it as having a range of 60 nm which would be insufficient (fine for a target drone). Beyond that, I have no idea.

    2. range most likely. Generally you want modern AShM in the 200+ nm range with a warhead. The military is working on a lot of super and hypersonic missiles/unmanned delivery vehicles but are generally tight lipped about it. If they can ever get something like the X-51 to be viable, then it becomes rather interesting. Mach 5+ really starts to open things up impact wise. If we could get a Mach 5+ missile with a divebomb final profile with say a 100KG warhead, it could sink most anything.

  7. A significant aspect of the choice between small/subsonic and big/supersonic is the intended target. If the targets are corvettes and frigate sized ships as so many navies are building today, a large/supersonic missile is not required. A much smaller one will do the job. If the target is a carrier one would like to have the max impact which means big and fast.

    The USN will face a mix of ship sizes depending on the enemy. China is developing carriers and has some true destroyer size ships. Russia has some big ships if one thinks Russia is a potential enemy. NKorea and Iran have only smaller vessels. Any enemy may have large tankers and such.

    1. The damage effects are also very much dependent on the warhead as well. As I've pointed out, the LRASM is designed with a significantly larger warhead than all but the Shipwreck AShM. And the problem with a missile the size of the Shipwreck is that it requires a very big ship to carry it. Currently there are only 4 ships in the world big enough to carry the Shipwreck.

      Also, it should be pointed out that Russia, with all its advanced SS AShM, designed sub-sonic AShM with the latest AShM design by russia being sub-sonic.

    2. The Russians already have supersonic missiles so that only leaves subsonic for them to develop. More importantly, I suspect, is that they are extremely short on budget. We're developing the subsonic version largely due to budget pressures and they are in far worse shape. Plus, they're undoubtedly looking ahead to foreign sales which pretty much dictates a small subsonic missile. Thus, their choice probably has little to do with tactical usefulness and everything to do with money!

    3. One would like the max impact for a given cost, deck area, and weight. Four stealthy LRASMs, each with a 1000lb penetrator warhead, fitting in the same deck area and weight as one Sunburn, still feels like a better value to me, especially since they fit in the Mk41 VLS as well. We don't have to redesign any ships AROUND the missile. The missile fits on the ships we are building.

      As a program, the fact that LRASM can be air launched by all of our fighter and bomber aircraft (our primary, non-sub ship killers) makes a no-brainer, IMHO.

      You are right, we will face a mix of ships. That's why, beyond LRASM, I think we have a greater need for a SMALLER AShM that can be carried in numbers by fighter aircraft or helicopters. The Brits have made good use of Sea Skua and Brimstone. Their FASGW(H) or MBDA Spear missiles would be useful additions.

    4. Best choice for a smaller AShM is probably NSM/JSM. Its basically half the weight, half the range, half the warhead of the LRASM. It is small enough for internal carry in the F35 (2) and another 2 can fit on each wing for a total of 6 missiles per plane.

    5. I think I'd prefer FASGW(H). It can be carried in multiples by an MH-60, and with a booster it could be quad packed in a VLS cell.

  8. "Thus, their choice probably has little to do with tactical usefulness and everything to do with money!"

    Very true. What was the old Roman saying about the sinews of war being money?

    I think this is why I like the LRASM so much (assuming it works, and that we can get it to the fleet).

    Again, I think this dovetails nicely with the frigate argument. I'd love to have 50 frigates with SPY3, AShM's, a sweet tail and computer systems, and a nice big flight deck for helo's. Kind of like some of the other nations 'frigates' that have been mentioned. But we cant afford it, and it doesn't fit our force structure.

    hypersonic AShM's are kind of the same way. I'd love to be able to have a Sunburn analog that we could put on 'Burkes. I wish RATTLRS or the hypersonic LRASM had worked out. But the development cost on such things is out of this world; especially with our currently broken procurement system. And they might require extensive modifications to our ships.

    If (and given that procuerment system, this is sadly a big if) we can use the existing JASSM-ER platform to make a nice long range subsonic cruise missile, and do it on the cheap, its a win for us.

    Right now the Harpoon is old. For whatever reason the Navy chose not to go with a VLS version or the Block III buys. So we have a fleet effectively without AShM's.

    Develop a VLS capable, and/or deck mount capable subsonic missle that we can put on our existing ships and we have a weapon we can distribute to the fleet quickly and economically. Even if its only 70% effective as a SS AShM we can make it work given that we generally have more ships. Or we can use sub's to sneak in closer for a strike. Or hang a butt load of them off of carrier aircraft. Heck, if this thing is as autonomous as they say, put a 'LRASM' module (essentially a launcher) on an LCS and viola! A missile boat!

    We wont' have to have the mega development time (and money)for a brand new missile type with which we don't have much experience. We won't have to design a ship around a missile. We can use it right away.

    Just my $0.02

  9. Your comment about other nations frigates with SPY3, large hello decks and good computer system is misleading. Most foreign navies classify most of there surface warfare ships as frigates when in fact there more inline with destroyers. As an example take the German F125 frigate at 7,200 tons, Turkish TF2000 at 6,000+ tons, French/Italian HORIZON Class at 7,050 tons,the French/Italian FREMM Class at 6,670 tons, and my favorite class the Danish Absalon support ships and there frigate derivatives the Iver Huitfeldt class both in ths 6,500+ ton class.

    1. john, to be fair, Jim expressed the word frigate as 'frigate' in recognition of the fact that most frigates are much closer to destroyers or even cruisers, as you point out.

  10. just curios commy, do you ever play Harpoon the boardgame or the computer game ? what wargame (outside the military) for public consumption do you think best potraying modern naval warfare ?

    1. "b", the current standard for public naval computer wargames is "Command" which can be found at


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