U.S. Navy Enhancing Offensive Firepower of Surface Combatants

by Larry Dickerson, Missile Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

The U.S. Navy is enhancing the lethality of its surface combatants. Naval officers have long warned of the declining ability of U.S. warships, on their own, to inflict heavy damage. The U.S. surface fleet needs to go back to basics and dramatically reshape itself, according to many senior officers.

In the near term, the U.S. Navy is arming its Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) with a new strike missile. Raytheon’s Griffin was to be the initial missile deployed, but the Navy changed its mind and decided to acquire the Longbow HELLFIRE missile instead.

A second missile offering greater range and an enhanced guidance system is to follow. The Navy has selected Kongsberg and Raytheon to provide a version of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which is already in production for the Royal Norwegian Navy and other customers.

None of these missiles is a long-term solution to the U.S. Navy’s firepower needs. That requirement is the responsibility of the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) program. Under OASuW Increment I, Lockheed Martin will provide an air-launched version of its Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).

The OASuW Increment II counters the “advanced 2024 threat,” but the Navy later combined it with other requirements. This missile will arm warships and combat aircraft with a submarine-launched capability that will appear in the future.

The U.S. Navy will fulfill its missile requirements with a number of different systems, including the LCS missile, LRASM, the Advanced Strike Missile, and the U.S. Anti-Ship Missile. Total procurement of all these missiles could amount to between 1,200 and 3,000 units.

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