NLOS-LS Missile Fail Could Impact Navy's LCS

The failure of the Army’s Non Line-of-Sight-Launch System (NLOS-LS) Precision Attack Missile (PAM) to hit its intended targets in a recent series of live fire tests might not just be an Army problem. See, the NLOS-PAM system, also called “missiles-in-a-box,” is also supposed to outfit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), giving the ships a much needed long-range strike weapon.

The NLOS-LS was to substitute for the LCS’ lack of vertical launch system cells - which can handle anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land attack missiles - carried on larger surface ships, if in a smaller package. The only weapon the LCS currently carries is a single 57mm rapid fire cannon that can range out to nine miles.

The missiles-in-a-box for LCS were to come in two versions, the PAM, with a range of around 40 miles, and a Loitering Attack Missile, that when fully developed was to have nearly a 124 mile range. The missiles would give the LCS some of the much needed firepower it currently lacks, and when coupled with ship launched aerial drones, an over the horizon strike capability.

In a mostly favorable white paper on the LCS, Martin Murphy, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, pointed to the LCS’ lack of organic fires as a serious shortcoming. If the missiles don’t come on line anytime soon, the LCS’ operational effectiveness could be negatively impacted.

As we reported last month, during live fire tests in late January and early February, the NLOS-PAM missed its target four out of six times. Senior Army leaders are pretty fed up with the costly missile system (each missile costs roughly $466,000), according to Army sources, and are considering cheaper solutions.

If the Army decides to pass on NLOS-LS, where does that leave the Navy and LCS? Can the LCS hull accommodate the larger VLS cells and what would the ship have to give up to fit them?

-- Greg

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