The answer to the likely enemy. Trends in the development of anti-ship weapons of the US Navy
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the ship composition and combat potential of the fleets of Russia and China. In particular, new, more effective models of anti-ship weapons are being created. The Pentagon is watching these processes with alarm and is preparing its own response. Various organizational concepts are being worked out and their own missile systems with enhanced characteristics are being created.
The US Navy remains the largest and most powerful fleet in a world capable of operating anywhere in the world. However, the main geopolitical competitors of the United States continue to develop their armed forces, as a result of which activities in some regions are at least difficult.
Russia is gradually restoring or rebuilding the defense of all sea borders, incl. in remote areas of the Arctic and the Far East. Large "no-access and maneuver zones" (A2 / AD) are being established, sharply limiting the potential of foreign armies and fleets. Long-distance cruises of ships and submarines with strategic and operational-tactical strike capabilities were also resumed.
China is pursuing similar military construction and modernization of its naval forces. Due to the massive and fairly fast construction of ships of the main classes, naval aviation etc. effective coastal defense has already been ensured. In addition, the PRC is actively expanding its zone of interests - towards the so-called. the second and third chains of islands and the Pacific Ocean as a whole.
In the operations of the US Navy, the main role is still given to aircraft carrier strike groups, which have broad offensive and defensive capabilities. The likely enemy takes this into account and pays special attention to the development of anti-ship weapons and their carriers. To date, Russia and China have created a lot of similar samples capable of spreading A2 / AD zones on water and in the air for hundreds of kilometers. Moreover, the development of the RCC direction continues and shows new remarkable results.
To one degree or another, the entire spectrum of existing Russian and / or Chinese missiles is a threat to the AUG and other naval detachments. At the same time, there are or are developing new products that pose a particular hazard. For example, the PLA is armed with a ground-based ballistic anti-ship missile DF-21D. It has a range of at least 1500 km and is supposed to be capable of breaking through modern shipborne air defense-missile defense systems.
In the near future, there will be a real threat in the form of a Russian-developed Zircon hypersonic missile. The speed of the order of 8-9 M practically excludes successful interception by current and future air defense systems, and the range is approx. 1000 km allows the rocket carrier to control large areas. It is reported that the "Zircon" will be able to replenish the ammunition of ships, boats and submarines of a number of types.
Thus, the situation for the aircraft carrier groups and the US Navy can no longer be considered favorable, and in the future only its deterioration can be expected. This will be facilitated by the wider distribution of modern anti-ship systems and their carriers, as well as the creation of new models.
A great danger to AUG and surface ships in general is posed by surface ships with advanced anti-ship weapons. Accordingly, the safety of their ships depends on the ability to timely detect and attack such a threat or to execute a retaliatory strike. To this end, new weapons projects are already being developed in the United States.
Currently, the main work on the OASuW Increment 1 program is being completed. Its goal was to create a promising long-range anti-ship missile system, compatible with various carriers. The result of the program in 2018 was the adoption of the AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missile system. To date, it has been integrated into the armament complex of B-1B bombers and F / A-18E / F carrier-based fighters. Work is nearing completion on equipping such anti-ship missiles for P-8A patrol aircraft. It is expected that the ship modification used with the Mk 41 installations will enter service.
The LRASM product is flying at low altitude and high subsonic speed. The declared range is over 900 km. The target is defeated with a 1000-pound penetrating warhead. This is enough to disable or destroy ships of small and medium displacement.
At the end of April, the US Navy launched a new program OASuW Increment 2. Again, we are talking about the creation of a promising anti-ship missile system with high flight and combat qualities, compatible with different carriers. At the same time, the exact terms of reference has not yet been drawn up. Achievement of initial operational readiness OASuW Inc. 2 is scheduled for 2028-30.
Thus, the question of enemy anti-ship missiles and their surface carriers in the short and medium perspective receives a symmetrical answer. For the US Navy, its own air and ship-based anti-ship missiles with high performance are being created and adopted. However, even the LRASM project has not yet yielded all the desired results.
Coastal missile systems, such as the Russian Bastion or the Chinese DF-21D, pose a great danger to naval groups. Countering them can be very difficult. To attack coastal targets, the US Navy uses missiles of the Tomahawk family and guided weapons of carrier-based aircraft.
The success of the strike by such means is not guaranteed. Cruise missiles and fighters are forced to enter the enemy's air defense zone - with understandable risks. A way out of this situation could be new missiles with a long range and high flight speed, launched from outside the "no-go zone" and extremely difficult to intercept. However, such weapon the US Navy is not yet available, and the timing of its appearance is unknown.
Get away from the blow
The Pentagon is discussing the idea of the so-called. distributed lethality. A large ship is a single object and can be destroyed by a well-ordered strike. For example, a successful attack on an aircraft carrier incapacitates the entire AUG. In this regard, it is proposed, if possible, to abandon large and relatively vulnerable combat units in favor of numerous fire weapons.
This concept is being worked out in the framework of several modern projects. For example, an AML missile system is being developed for coastal units and units. This project provides for the creation of an unmanned self-propelled launcher capable of using missiles of various types and for various purposes. With the help of military transport aircraft, AML products should be transferred to a given area and autonomously perform the assigned fire mission.
The AML project is being created in connection with the need to counter the PLA in the Pacific. It is assumed that the US Army or the USMC will be able to move launchers between the islands of the region, and this will quickly and flexibly organize the defense of the desired areas. The AML ammunition can include both existing unguided and operational-tactical missiles, and promising anti-ship missiles.
The idea of distributed combat power can be realized in other ways, for example, in the form of a large number of small ships with powerful missile weapons. However, the emergence of such a fleet is unlikely - it is unlikely to be considered an effective and expedient measure. The US Navy is not going to change the key provisions of its strategy, and the AUG will remain the basis of their power. The surface forces, most likely, will be improved by improving the existing ships and strengthening the coastal groupings.
A complex approach
Due to the development of leading foreign countries, the United States can no longer claim unconditional leadership in the World Ocean. In a number of districts and regions, the free operations of their naval forces are virtually excluded, and the area of such zones continues to grow - along with the plans and combat capabilities of a potential adversary.
Such a threat to national interests is not ignored, and the necessary measures are being taken. Basically, they boil down to the development of new weapons compatible with existing platforms. Also, new tactics and strategies are being worked out, adapted to the potential theater of military operations.
In general, a full-fledged integrated approach is already being observed, which allows the Pentagon to count on obtaining the desired results. At the same time, there is also some lag behind potential adversaries, which makes the position of the United States more difficult and requires acting faster and more efficiently.
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