The Hunt for Future Navy Air Weapons

Defense Tech reader Ned Conger just sent us a thorough list of weapons and munitions the U.S. Navy thinks are key to winning the future aerial fight.

"Our program develops a mix of legacy, advanced and next-generation weapons that will outpace the capable threat across the spectrum of military operations," wrote Rear Adm. Kenny Floyd, the director of aviation and aircraft carrier plans and requirements (OpNav N880).

"Current combat operations and analytic scenarios in a wide variety of tactical environments have kept the pressure on my Strike Aircraft Plans and Requirements staff to refine weapons requirements and to work closely with program management and industry to ensure the timely delivery of relevant warfighting capabilities to the fleet."air-strike.jpg

There's a lot of red meat on these bones, so Ill include the whole thing to let you all chew over it without any of my long-winded commentary. There are some interesting tidbits in there, so be sure to let other readers know what you think about Rear Adm. Floyds shopping list.

NEAR-TERM DEVELOPMENTS

Direct Attack Moving Target Capability (DAMTC)

DAMTC will be a level-of-effort weapon intended to provide Naval and Joint warfighters with a lethal, interoperable and cost-effective precision strike weapon system that can engage moving targets. As adversary threats advance in capacity and mobility, the improved capability to engage moving targets from legacy aircraft becomes crucial to strike warfare. I expect that an open competition for DAMTC will result in a retrofit kit for existing direct attack weapons and be available to the fleet in the near future.

Low Collateral Damage Bomb (LOCO)

The BLU-126/B, also known as the Low Collateral damage bomb (LOCO), delivers ordnance to urban targets with reduced collateral damage. It fulfills a need for a weapon that is both combat effective and adheres to United States Central Commands collateral damage rules of engagement. Air-to-ground weapons historically were produced to deliver the maximum amount of explosives. In modern urban warfare, there is often little delineation between friendly, neutral and enemy forces, requiring better blast control. LOCO allows tactical aircraft to employ a precision strike weapon with reduced collateral damage.

Externally, LOCO is identical to the 500-lb. BLU-111, but it contains less explosive mass. Therefore, it produces a reduced fragmentation pattern and blast radius. Our team developed the weapon for use in situations in which friendly forces or civilians are in close proximity to the target. LOCO can be used with the same guidance kits as the BLU-111, including those for laser-guided bombs (LGB), dual-mode laser-guided bombs (DMLGB) and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). By modifying an existing weapon system, the program reduced costs associated with design, production and sustainment of this new weapon.

Dual-Mode Laser-Guided Bomb

The DMLGB is a retrofit to legacy LGBs that converts them to the dual-mode configuration using common components. It provides increased flexibility by combining proven technology of laser terminal guidance with all-weather fire-and-forget capability of Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (INS/GPS).

The retrofit involves replacing the existing Computer Control Group (CCG) system with an INS/GPS to provide legacy LGBs with an all-weather guidance system. By using a retrofit strategy vice developing a new weapon, we can streamline qualification time lines and put a new weapon capability in the warfighters hands faster. DMLGB is currently scheduled for IOC in August 2007 on both the AV-8B and F/A-18 with future integration on F-35.

Standoff Land Attack Missile Extended Range (SLAM-ER)

SLAM-ER is a long-range, highly precise air-launched strike missile capable of attacking high-value fixed and relocatable land targets, as well as surface ship targets under way or in port. Terminal control of the weapon is accomplished by the aircrew designating the impact point on the imaging infrared scene transmitted from the weapon and displayed in the cockpit. Man-in-the-loop commands are sent to the SLAM-ER via a data link pod, which is carried by the launch or secondary control aircraft. Hornet A/B/C/D and Super Hornet E/F variants can provide terminal control of SLAM-ER, but only the legacy Hornets can launch the weapon. Launch capability for Super Hornets is scheduled for release to the fleet in 2008.

MIDTERM DEVELOPMENTS

Harpoon Block III

The Harpoon Block III weapon system upgrade provides the U.S. Navy and its allies with surface warfare (SuW) capabilities from ships, aircraft, submarines and coastal defense systems by retrofitting Harpoon missiles in the existing inventory. This upgrade creates a highly capable weapon for the open water and littoral warfare environment by adding GPS capability and inflight target solutions. GPS capabilities provide significant littoral performance improvements such as target discrimination, minimized target-to-shore separation and a land-attack capability with JDAM/GPS accuracy. The addition of a data-link system provides inflight target updates, positive terminal control and connectivity with future network architecture. This enables the weapon to receive information from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) targeting platforms and gives the launching platform a man-in-the-loop, over-the-horizon SuW solution for the emerging threat.

The Harpoon Block III upgrade offers the option of an inherent spiral development path for future Department of the Navy targeting improvements as well as the ability to integrate the data link on new platforms like the P-8A, organic vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles and unmanned vehicles.

Joint Standoff Weapon C-1

The JSOW-C-1 variant, also known as a JSOW Block III, provides upgraded capability to strike moving land targets as well as maritime targets. The JSOW-C-1 will be introduced to the fleet as an engineering change proposal to the existing Block II JSOW-C base line. JSOW-C-1 will employ a secure, jam-resistant, high-speed digital tactical data link using Link-16. It also will provide attributes necessary for launch and control or relay of weapon data links by F/A-18E/F aircraft. Future increments will address other control platforms, weapon and data link options.

The JSOW-C-1 will incorporate new target tracking algorithms into the seeker for moving targets, giving Joint force commanders an affordable, air-delivered standoff weapon that is effective against fixed and relocatable land and maritime targets. The JSOW-C-1 system must maintain legacy JSOW-C functionality to be effective against point targets in or through adverse weather conditions, both day and night. JSOW-C-1 must provide low and high altitude launch capability to enable launch platforms to stand off beyond target point defenses. Used in conjunction with accurate targeting information and anti-radiation weapons, JSOW-C-1 will destroy enemy air defenses and create sanctuaries that permit the rapid transition to low-cost, direct attack ordnance.

LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENTS

Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM)

JAGM is critical to long-term Navy and Marine Corps Aviation. This missile will replace aging Hellfire, TOW and Maverick missiles. JAGM will provide extended standoff, all-weather moving-target capability in a high-countermeasure battlefield environment. JAGM will be the first fixed-wing, rotary-wing and UAV compatible missile in the DoD inventory and will greatly enhance the warfighters operational flexibility.

Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II)

SDB II is a Joint interest program providing the capability to attack mobile targets in all weather at standoff ranges. SDB II addresses the following requirements attack mobile targets, multiple kills per pass, multiple ordnance carriage, all-weather operations, precision munitions capability, capability against fixed targets, reduced munitions footprint, increased weapons effectiveness, minimized potential for collateral damage, reduced susceptibility of munitions to countermeasures and a migration path to network centric operations capability. The Navy and Marine Corps aircraft planned for integration are F/A-18E/F and F-35B/C.

SDB II will continue incremental development to pursue net-centric interoperability. Navy initial operating capability (IOC) is scheduled for Fiscal Year 2016 on the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, followed by IOC on the F-35C CV (aircraft carrier-capable) variant.

(Gouge: NC)

-- Christian

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