Threat of Supersonic Missiles Drives Funding for Ship Self-Defense System

By Andrew Dardine, Forecast International.

Based on projections in the FY15 defense budget, the U.S. Navy is planning to devote $723 million in RDT&E funding over the next 10 years on development of a Ship Self-Defense System to address the threat to Navy ships from supersonic missiles. The SSDS will integrate sensors and electronic countermeasures into a single combat/protection system. The SSDS program specifically focuses on developing better techniques for integrating equipment that has already been developed and is in use, such as radars and weapons systems, to counter the growth of new anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) threats.

According to military planners, the supersonic sea-skimming ASCM reduces the effective battlespace to the horizon and the available reaction timeline to less than 30 seconds from first opportunity to detect until the ASCM impacts its target ship. Against such a threat, multisensor integration is required for effective detection, and parallel processing is essential to reduce reaction time to acceptable levels.

The SSDS is the core “control element” of the combat system known as Quick Reaction Combat Capability (QRCC) that will be integrated on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. The QRCC project implements an evolutionary acquisition of improved ship self-defense capabilities against ASCMs for selected ships. By far, the majority of funding for the overall SSDS program is being dedicated to this effort. Of the $56.8 million planned for FY15, $50 million is set aside for QRCC.

The variant currently in development is SSDS Mk 2, which is being fielded with the new-construction carriers (CVN 78 class) and amphibious ships (LHA 6, LPD 17 classes). SSDS Mk 2 is replacing the Advanced Combat Direction System (ACDS) in the LHD 1 class and the SSDS Mk 1 in the LSD 41/49 class as part of fleet modernization initiatives.

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