First LCS Over The Horizon Missiles in 2019 Budget Request

The USS Coronado (LCS 4) launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2016. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Bryce Hadley)
The USS Coronado (LCS 4) launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2016. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Bryce Hadley)

As the competition to provide the much-anticipated over-the-horizon missile capability for the littoral combat ship draws to a close, the Navy is already budgeting to buy the first missiles.

The president's budget request for Fiscal 2019, released Monday, contains $18 million in funding to buy the very first 8 OTH missiles for the LCS. Plans for the next five years show a procurement ramp-up as ships begin to receive the new capability and eventually deploy with it: the Navy intends to buy 12 LCS OTH missiles each year from Fiscal 2020 to 2022, and 20 in Fiscal 2023.

The Navy is nearing the end of production for the LCS, but plans to use the same missiles on its successor, the frigate. Originally, the frigate was planned to be based on the LCS design, with relatively small changes to improve lethality and survivability. But last year, amid criticism of the LCS, the Navy opened up up competition for the frigate design. A winner is expected to be chosen by April.

The [OTH] missile provides the littoral combat ship/frigate with long-range anti-surface offensive capability against surface combatants," the budget document reads.

The $18 million budgeted is intended to buy the launch systems for the yet-to-be chosen weapon, as well as the complement of missiles.

After Boeing and Lockheed Martin pulled out of the competition last year, having submitted the Harpoon and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM, respectively, the likely winner of the LCS OTH contract is the Naval Strike Missile, submitted by Raytheon and Kongsberg.

The 900-pound anti-ship warhead, which has a range of roughly 100 miles, was tested successfully aboard the littoral combat ship Coronado in 2014. According to Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, the missile will be employed by the Army in the joint exercise Rim of the Pacific later this year, when U.S. Army Pacific will fire it from shore to sink a ship.

Adding the OTH missile to the LCS is expected to help address long-standing concerns about the ship's survivability. It also stands to make the ship a greater threat in surface warfare, which makes up one of its three mission sets, along with mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare.

"What happens when you put long-range missiles on something? What happens when you take smaller combatants and hit an adversary from multiple directions?" the Navy's then-surface warfare director, Rear Adm. Peter Fanta, told USNI News in 2016.

"We did a study up with the [U.S. Naval War College] and we've done internal ... studies that say, what happens if -- just do away with the rest of the fleet and just let small ships hit the adversary. And we find out that you lose a bunch of small ships, but you also put the enemy fleet on the bottom of the ocean."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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