Cheap and angry
One of the most interesting directions in the development of anti-ship missiles is to reduce the maximum launch range. Previously, such systems developed in the direction of increasing speed, range and accuracy, but now a number of factors require sacrificing range in favor of performing certain combat missions. The practice of recent years with characteristic local conflicts has also affected anti-ship missiles. Third world countries, which now have to fight with large and powerful states, most often have old equipment, including on navy. Thus, developing countries are now forced to build their navy according to the "mosquito" principle. To combat such an adversary, serious naval strike groups need relatively simple, cheap, and convenient weapons. It is easy to guess that the attack of small boats or ships with expensive long-range missiles can be unprofitable even in economic terms. Therefore, in recent years, several projects have been launched, the purpose of which is to create specialized guided ammunition for the destruction of small targets at short and ultra-short ranges, up to ten kilometers.
One of the first missiles of this class was the American Raytheon AGM-175 Griffin-B. The AGM-175 was originally designed as an ammunition for aviation, designed to strike at ground and surface objects. Not so long ago, on the basis of the original Griffin rocket, a ship-based modification was created, which received the code name Griffin-B. The main difference between the ship version of AGM-175 lies in the possibility of using missiles with universal launchers Mk 49 GMLS. This approach to launching the missile allows it to equip most of the US and NATO warships, since the Mk 49 systems are initially part of the RAM anti-aircraft missile system, which is equipped with almost all new American-built ships. Thus, the combination of Griffin-B and Mk 49 provides a fairly simple way of defending the ship from both the air and surface enemies at short and medium distances. It is noteworthy that the principle of using one launcher for anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles is somewhat reminiscent of the concept of the Mk 41 missile launcher installed on the American cruisers of the Ticonderoga project, destroyers of the Arleigh Burke project, as well as on 17 other types of foreign ships.
Despite the unified launcher, the AGM-175 anti-ship missile has smaller dimensions than the anti-aircraft RIM-116: the length of the 1,1 meter, the diameter of 14 cm and the starting weight of 20 kilograms. At the same time, the rocket carries a high-explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 5,9 kg and flies to a range of about 5-5,5 kilometers (when launched from the ground or from a ship). When launching from an airplane, it is possible to achieve four times longer range. The combined guidance system is inscribed in the relatively small dimensions of the rocket body. Depending on the situation, Griffin-B can use laser, inertial or GPS guidance. The absence of radar or thermal guidance is due to the small range of flight: at a distance of five to seven kilometers from the target, the ship or aircraft can independently illuminate the target with a laser, launching a rocket onto it. Currently, the AGM-175 Griffin-B rocket is being tested. It is expected that these anti-ship missiles will become part of the armament of the ships of the LCS project.
When developing the AGM-175 rocket, Raytheon employees took into account the experience of creating other classes of missiles, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Similarly, the situation develops with promising short-range anti-ship missiles in European countries, and the American anti-tank missile AGM-114 Hellfire, which was named Brimstone after the modernization, was taken as the basis for the project of Marconi Electronic Systems companies, BAE Systems and MBDA. The aim of the work is to ensure the possibility of the destruction of small boats with modified anti-tank missiles. So far, the tests have reached only the launch of rockets from aircraft, but a set of equipment is already being developed, designed for installation on rocket boats and warships of low displacement. For guidance, the Brimstone rocket uses a combined system that combines inertial and radar equipment. In addition, it is possible target designation using laser equipment. The fifty-kilogram rocket has a solid-fuel engine and is capable of flying at a distance of up to 12 kilometers at supersonic speeds. This year, in the water area of the Aberport site (Great Britain, Wales), several test launches of Brimstone missiles were conducted, during which high-speed maneuvering boats were fired.
The anti-ship version of the Brimstone missile is only being tested so far, and the launcher for its use on boats and ships is currently under development. Apparently, the design of the launcher is nearing completion. The fact is that the ship-based full-fledged missile system "Brimstone" is already offered for export. So, the MBDA concern is currently negotiating with the United Arab Emirates to equip such systems with new boats of the Ghannatha project. Given the characteristics of the waters available to the Emirates, one can make an assumption about good prospects for negotiations. It is possible that in the very near future, Abu Dhabi will agree to update the configuration of its new boats.
Priority - range
Anti-ship versions of the Griffin and Brimstone missiles are a kind of response to a possible threat in the form of a large number of enemy boats and small warships capable of attacking only from a short distance. At the same time, the possibility of collisions between large ship formations, including aircraft carriers, remains. For such situations, the long range of anti-ship missiles continues to be relevant. In addition, a number of events require further development in the traditional direction of increasing range, flight speed and accuracy. In the case of American projects, these works are further stimulated by the prospects of the Pacific region. China is building a powerful fleet, it plans to launch several aircraft carriers at the same time, and also boasts the creation of anti-ship missiles with a range of 200-250 kilometers. The latest modifications of the American Harpo family of missiles - the AGM-84 aviation, the underwater-based naval RGM-84 and UGM-84 - provide a range of at least 280 kilometers. At the same time in the warehouses there are many older ammunition that can fly only 140-150 km. Thus, in order to maintain parity with the Chinese fleet, Americans need to speed up production and switch to later versions of the Harpoon, as well as create entirely new long-range missiles.
Estimated appearance of supersonic long-range RCC LRASM B
At the beginning of the two thousandth, under the auspices of the agency DARPA, three anti-ship missile projects with a range of at least 500 kilometers were launched at once. The first two programs carried out by Lockheed Martin, pursued the goal of creating two types of RCC with different characteristics and the most unified design. Thus, the general program LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile - "Anti-ship long-range missile") was divided into two projects: LRASM-A and LRASM-B. When developing both LRASM ammunition, the experience gained from the previous AGM-158 JASSM project is used. According to some sources, the LRASM-A rocket will be able to deliver a warhead weighing about 450 a kilogram at a distance of at least 550-600 km. The missile guidance system combines inertial and satellite equipment, as well as optical-electronic and radar homing heads. There is information about equipping the LRASM-A with an on-board computer, in whose memory the signature database of all possible surface targets is loaded. Thus, the rocket will be able to independently determine the most priority object and hit it. The launch of the LRASM-A will be conducted from the standard Mk 41 mine launcher, and most of the flight to the target will be at subsonic speed.
Perspective Long-Range RCC LRASM A
The LRASM-B missile should have a much greater range than the LRASM variant with the letter “A”. In addition, different power plant and flight profile. LRASM-B was planned to be equipped with a ramjet engine, allowing to fly at supersonic speeds. High-speed flight was supposed to take place at high altitude with a descent after finding the target. The missile guidance system LRASM-B should have the same structure as the LRASM-A. Both missiles of the LRASM family were intended to replace Harpoon missiles, and therefore were able to launch not only from a ship, but also from an airplane or a submarine.
At the beginning of this year, several from the United States News regarding the LRASM program. Firstly, the cessation of work on a supersonic version of the rocket was reported. LRASM-B was considered too complex and unpromising. The second unpleasant event for the US Navy was the rejection of the "underwater" version of the remaining LRASM-A missile. Thus, the range of possible applications of promising missiles has significantly decreased, primarily due to the abandonment of the more distant LRASM-B. In May of this year, tests of individual LRASM-A rocket systems began, and in July it was announced the completion of work on a homing system. The first flight of the rocket is scheduled for early next 2013, and field tests will begin no earlier than 2014. In connection with such a test period, the adoption of a new missile will take place no earlier than 2015-16.
Secret records of speed and range
Another program of the DARPA agency and Lockheed Martin is called RATTLRS (Revolutionary Approach To Time Critical Long Range Strike - "The revolutionary principle of reducing flight time"). Despite the rather long time spent on the development of this project (about 8-10 years), so far all information about it is limited only to fragmentary data. It is known that a promising RATTLRS rocket should fly to the target at a speed of about 3-4M. To do this, it will be equipped with a Rolls Royce YJ102R turbojet engine, which is a further development of the ideology first used on the Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 turbojet engine (engines of the Lockheed SR-71 aircraft). Judging by the declared flight data of the RATTLRS rocket, the new YJ102R engine should have a so-called. variable cycle scheme: when a speed of the order of M = 2 is reached, the turbojet engine, with the help of additional devices, begins to work as a direct-flow one, which allows a significant increase in thrust without increasing fuel consumption. The purpose of the RATTLRS missile is to replace the aging BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles. The last time official information about the project of the "revolutionary new" rocket appeared was about two or three years ago. Since then, the state of the RATTLRS program, as well as the very fact of its continuation, have been a big question. Do not exclude the possibility of merging the LRASM and RATTLRS programs. The second, in this case, will replace the previously closed LRASM-B project.
If the RATTLRS project involves the creation of a high-speed rocket, then another DARPA program pursues other goals. Prospective ArcLight rocket should provide a significant increase in range. The basis of the new ArcLight is anti-missile RIM-161 SM-3, which has high flight data. Due to the fact that the SM-3 was created as a kinetic interceptor of enemy ballistic missiles, it flies at a speed of the order of 2700 meters per second and is capable of hitting targets at a distance from the launch site to 500 kilometers or at an altitude of 150-160 km. Thus, even without taking into account the effectiveness of the guidance system, the RIM-161 rocket is a good base for the creation of long-range anti-ship guided weapons. In addition, the SM-3 rocket and its ArchLight “modification” are fully compatible with the universal Mk 41 launcher, which will make it possible to transfer all new US Navy ships to these anti-ship missiles quickly and painlessly. The detailed appearance of the ArcLight rocket is not completely clear. Most likely, it will have significantly larger dimensions and weight compared to the base SM-3 (the length of the anti-missile is equal to 6,55 meter, body diameter - 0,35 m, starting weight - one and a half tons). The characteristics of the anti-rocket RIM-161 suggest that the combat unit of the anti-ship ArcLight will hardly weigh more than 100-120 kilograms. Such sacrifices in the form of a reduced “payload” will have to be made to fulfill the basic range requirement. According to the original task, the ArcLight RCC should hit targets at a distance of 2300 miles (about 3700 km) from the launch site. Thus, in terms of its characteristics, first of all in range, the ArcLight anti-ship missile will significantly surpass all of the US anti-ship and / or cruise missiles available, including the decommissioned AGM-129 ACM and the planned BGM-109 Tomahawk. At the same time, the state of the ArcLight project was not disclosed, therefore, we cannot exclude both quick tests and complete cessation of work.
As you can see, the United States continues to develop new weapons, including those possessing much better characteristics than the existing ones. It is worth noting the courage of the programs and attempts to unify various types of missiles. Of particular interest is the idea of an ultra-short-range anti-ship missile. Perhaps, twenty or thirty years ago, a proposal to fire missiles at targets at a distance of no more than 5-10 kilometers would be considered an unwise joke, appealing to ship artillery. However, even with the use of gun mounts from such RCCs, it can be a good idea, because the rocket carries a greater explosive charge than the projectile, and also has the ability to correct the flight path.
However, anti-ship missiles with a range of more than 3000 kilometers are much more interesting. In general, the provision of such a range is not something particularly difficult in technical terms. It will be much more difficult to create a control system, as well as an associated “infrastructure”, in which a rocket could not only reach such a remote area of the target, but also locate an enemy ship and then destroy it. To provide such capabilities, the same ArchLight must have a high flight speed and / or a perfect target search system. Thus, the main for the present time method of targeting the anti-ship missiles to the target becomes almost the only possible for high-speed and long-range missiles. It is noteworthy that both LRASM and RATTLRS, and possibly ArcLight, have the same targeting principle. Before starting, they actually need to know only the area of the target and its type. Further, the rocket automatically, using signals from an inertial or satellite navigation system, reaches a given area and independently searches for a target in it using optical and / or radar equipment.
This method of targeting has one characteristic minus: under certain circumstances (inaccurate reconnaissance data or difficulty transferring data on detected targets) enemy ships may have time to leave the area to which the missile was sent. In this regard, together with the range of the munition, it is necessary to increase its speed, which entails quite understandable difficulties of a technical nature. In addition, the high speed of the anti-ship missile lowers the likelihood of its interception by means of shipboard defense and increases the chances of hitting the target. Thus, for the normal operation of a high-speed, long-range, and — not least — expensive, rocket requires the creation of decent detection and targeting systems: aviation, satellite, etc.
One way or another, with the proper development of all related equipment and auxiliary processes, a country that is armed with long-range anti-ship missiles provides itself with an advantage in large clashes of military fleets. As for ultra short range anti-ship missiles, they still look like a military-technical curiosity. At the same time, this direction has certain prospects and, most likely, will receive a good export future. Probably, similar systems will interest small third-world countries.
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