Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Type 26, Type 45, anti-ship missiles

To take a much needed break (and a breath) from the gloom and doom and depression of the latest rumors about the Army cuts, i'm writing a quick article on the issue of anti-ship missiles and weaponry for the Type 26 frigates and Type 45 destroyers, helped in this by some interesting hints contained in an article on the italian defence magazine "Rivista Italiana Difesa".

According to this respected Italian publication and its journalists, the Type 45 might get an anti-ship missile within next year. Nothing is specified about this program, no details, sadly. My guess is that four of the Type 45 destroyers could be fitted with the Harpoon batteries salvaged from the retired Type 22 Batch 3 frigates. Indeed, i've been personally expecting this to happen for quite some time, and i'm more surprised of it not having yet happened than anything else. The Type 45 is fitted for but not with SSM batteries, and the Harpoon quad launchers can be readily installed behind the PAAMS silo.

In the longer term, Harpoon will need a replacement, and the Type 26 frigate will of course need a weapon system other than the CAMM missile for point air defence. The same article on "Rivista Italiana Difesa" drops in a couple of hints about this as well, and confirms the analysis done on this blog on the latest imagery of the Type 26 concept released by BAE in a January 2012 video: the Type 26 main armament will be carried in a silo counting 24 cells. It is not specified which VLS system will be fitted, but it'll possibly be the Sylver A70.
The 24 cells are reportedly going to be used for a modular missile or a family of as common and closely related as possible missiles acting as Harpoon replacement, which is, according to the italian magazine's sources, required to cover three roles:

- Anti Ship
- Land Attack
- Anti submarine

It seems confirmed that, at least as of now, a 24-cell main missile silo is planned. Remove the question mark, the cell count was right, they are 24!

The requirement is still very much flexible and without a well defined shape. Currently, Vertical launch anti-ship missiles aren't exactly around to start with: a VLS Harpoon has been on the cards for years, but never progressed. In addition, there is not an existing missile on the market which is capable of covering all three roles. There's several anti-ship missiles that have a land attack capability, including systems such as the Harpoon Block II, the RBS15, the Joint Strike Missile and others, but none of these is vertically launched, and none has an anti-submarine capability. The Italian OTOMAT TESEO MK2 is the system that probably goes closer to the requirement, as it is an anti-ship missile with good land attack capability and its booster section is used by the MILAS missile, the italian answer to the US ASROC. The MILAS is launched by the same TESEO tubes, and replaces the front section of the anti-ship missile with a MU90 324 mm anti-submarine torpedo that it can drop in the water in a search area up to 35 km away from the launching ship. It is not, however, vertically launched. It uses standard quad-cell tubes, like the Harpoon.

The british requirement is indicated under the very generic acronym SSGW (surface to Surface Guided Weapon) and has been around as a requirement, in a shape or another, from the early 90s. An SSGW system was part of the Type 45 planned mission fit, but was notoriously written off from the list of requirements for the AAW destroyers for the time being.

So far little hard work has been done to turn the requirement in an actual system, and time is, in my opinion, running out. With the first Type 26 expected in service by 2021, it is time to start some serious activity, as only a new design can met all three roles and meet the VL requirement. Little is known of the performances desired from the missile, but a minimum effective range of 200 km has been indicated. The UK and France have begun funding studies by missile maker MBDA for a future cruise missile, potentially for employment from ships and airplanes alike (the latter as a possible longer-term Storm Shadow replacement). The first results of the studies are visible in the concept "Perseus" that MBDA first showed last year. This missile is roughly 5 meters long (more or less like Storm Shadow) and is said to weight 800 kg (down from 1300 of Storm Shadow) with a range of 300 km or more, the ability to strike ship and land targets with different attack profiles, high speed (more than Mach 3 in certain profiles) and modular space for different warheads to increase mission flexibility. Some 200 kg would be available for the warhead according to MBDA, and they have shown a notional "triple" warhead which features 100 kg of explosive in the missile, along with 2x 50 kg "effectors" that are dropped by the missile in the last stretch of the attack course, to hit either multiple targets in the same area, or to strike a single large target (like a major warship) in several different areas at once for maximum lethality. Other warhead options would include bunker-buster payloads and others, and if it was possible to use elements of the booster for firing a StingRay torpedo, a Perseus-derived family of missiles could be the answer for SSGW. Importantly, the Perseus is shown by MBDA being launched by VLS cells (as well as from a submarine's torpedo tubes), almost certainly Sylver A70 (the shorter A50 cell, used for example on Type 45, is five meters deep, and Perseus is unlikely to fit in with the vertical launch booster).  

However, the studies are very mild at this point in time, and aim more to 2030 than 2020. For the Type 26 that would be more than a bit late.

It looks to me also more than a bit uncertain the feasibility of putting a torpedo on an undoubtedly complex and expensive missile body meant to fly as fast as Mach 3, and it is difficult to say if and how much of Perseus could be effectively used to meet the anti-submarine part of the requirement. Then again, the anti-submarine requirement might well be abandoned, with standard torpedo tubes used instead, as on Type 23. Indeed, the RN has long done without an anti-submarine weapon of this kind, retaining torpedo tubes on frigates for snap-shots and very short range engagements, while leaving to embarked helicopters the work of bringing torpedoes to a distant area.

Of course, a weapon such as ASROC or MILAS enables the ship to timely answer to a fleeting long-range sonar contact, and it overall makes more sense than the torpedo tubes, as it is very likely that, if the submarine is close enough to be engaged so directly via on-board tubes, there's already torpedoes in the water aimed at the frigate. The Royal Navy last fielded a capability of this kind with the IKARA, many years ago now, and with the long-range detection capability of the sonar 2087, a long-range torpedo delivery system would certainly be a great enhancement.       

Apart from Perseus, the western part of the world is not ripe with new anti-ship missile projects. The most inventive system proposed was probably the box-launched variant of the KEPD 350 Taurus cruise missile for use on ships, which did not go very far anyway. 

The SEA Taurus so far did not progress, just like the much more interesting air-dropped Taurus, meant to be parachute-extracted from the rear ramp of cargo planes such as C130, A400 and C17. As many as 12 stand-off missiles on a large, cheap-to-fly cargo plane with thousands of miles of effective range. A beautifully effective solution. But not shiny nor pointy. No air force is investing in this mean of missile delivery. Much better to deliver 12 missiles flying 6 Tornado and 4 air tankers at the cost of millions of pounds, isn't it...?

The Joint Strike Missile from Norway is the only new missile in a world dominated by updates and re-editions of systems which have been around in forever, such as Teseo, Harpoon and Exocet. The JSM is a 1000 pounds weapon specifically designed to fit the F35's weapon bays (perhaps not that of the F35B, though) and good for both anti-ship and land strike roles. It is credited with an air-launch range of 130 naval miles and combines GPS and Imaging Infra Red seeker to find and hit its targets. The ship-launched variant will be installed, in time, on the Nansen frigates and on the Skjold air cushion catamaran corvettes of Norway. The land-launch variant has been chosen by Poland for its coastal defence batteries, and Australia is interested in the F35/JSM combination. The JSM could be ready and integrated on the F35 by 2019, when the Block 4 software release for the F35 is planned. The missile, when used on ships or on land, is box launched, and there is no VLS development in sight. 

The Joint Strike Missile is the sole anti-ship missile planned at the moment for the F35, and definitely the sole one which can fit in the weapon bay. In the UK, anti-ship missiles have been neglected in planning round after planning round, and with the retirement of Nimrod there's not a single airplane left in Britain capable to fire an anti-ship missile. Hopefully, the SPEAR Capability Block 3 weapon, being developed by the UK for internal F35 carriage, will be good enough at hitting mobile targets to have some capability as anti-ship missile. SPEAR Block 3 is progressing, and should be flying in 2013 for tests.
Other than the compatibility with the F35 weapon bays, the JSM is unremarkable. Good missile, but without any particularly impressive feature: no great speed (it is high subsonic, like Harpoon or Exocet) or fantastic range, or sci-fi seeker. 

JSM flight trials

Like all western anti-ship missiles, it kind of looks ancient and obsolete when compared to the Indo/Russian Bramhos/Yakhont missile.   

The Bramhos flies at mach 2.8 / 3, with a 200 kg warhead and a range of nearly 300 km. It is launched vertically from ships, fired from aircrafts (big maritime patrol planes, but also from the SU-30 MKI fighter jet), fired from trucks in land-based batteries and can also be employed by submarines. In development is the Bramhos II, aiming for Mach 4 and above, going into the hypersonic realm. Generations ahead of the western systems.

Perseus is merely a concept for now, and is many years away from meeting these targets. In the US, similar results might be reached this year, as the US navy tests the prototypes of a new generation of ship-killers which should enter service between 2018 and 2024.
The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) is currently a DARPA study, and the activity is going on with two very different protorypes and mission doctrines.
LRASM A is a "low-slow" stealthy, subsonic, turbofan-powered missile derived from the AGM-158B JASSM-ER(Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range) cruise missile, with a range of over 500 miles and a 1000 pounds warhead. It bets on stealthness and low altitude flying to slip past enemy defences, and on a huge warhead for achieving high lethality. At least initially, the LRASM A will be an air launched weapon.
LRASM B is a whole different story, and by far the most interesting of the two. It will have a 500 pounds warhead, but it will fly at supersonic speed and high altitude, with a dive-attack profile. Powered by a Ramjet, like Meteor or Bramhos itself, it is meant to be fired from MK41 vertical cells and uses the same booster of the SM3 anti-ballistic missile already in service.


Both missiles are being designed and assembled by Lockheed Martin, with BAE systems designing the common targeting and seeker system. 

LRASM B. Fins deployed, in this image it lacks the booster used for vertical launch.
Both LRASM missiles would eventually be refined and end up being employable by airplanes, ships and submarines if they were successful in the tests and brought forwards by the USN. Both missiles will share the on board seeker and targeting sensors, which will be particularly important as LRASM is required to conduct autonomous targeting, relying on its on-board targeting systems to independently acquire the target without the presence of prior, precision intelligence, or supporting services like Global Positioning Satellite navigation and data-links. This is to enable highly accurate strikes in extremely hostile environments where obtaining pre-launch intelligence would be impossible. The missile is to have sophisticate counter-countermeasures to further enhanced its chances of success.

A future development, which could end up merging with the Prompt Global Strike naval-segment, would aim to produce a cruise missile suitable for Tomahawk replacement, VLS compatible and hypersonic, capable of covering 2000 or more naval miles in 30 minutes.
This is to happen "sometime in the future", so to speak, but the LRASM should see at least a few flight trials (2 air drops for the A and 4 vertical launches for the B) within 2013, or already during this summer, when the US Navy could hold a Critical Design Review on the initiative.

Another US solution to the anti-ship problem is the "Tomahawk Block IV Plus". This missile, proposed by Raytheon, could be ready within 3 years of development and testing. It is a modified Tactical Tomahawk Block IV (already in use in the RN as well as, obviously, in the USN) which replaces the current two-ways datalink with an updated one and adds a new seeker head comprising a millimetric-wave multi-mode radar and a passive radar array.
The Tomahawk IV plus would be fired by MK41 Strike Length cells or torpedo tubes, it would fly nearly 2000 naval miles guided by GPS to reach its "hunting area", and then it would seek contacts with the passive radar, by intercepting the transmissions of enemy radars.
The millimetric-wave seeker would then guide the Tomahawk in the final approach on the target.  

The irony of the proposal is that an Anti-Ship Tomahawk used to exist already in the past. The RGM/UGM-109B Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile (TASM) [RGM denotes surface launch from ships, UGM underwater launch from submarines] combined the radar seeker of the Harpoon and the semi-piercing warhead of the Bullpup missile and offered long-range anti-ship capability. The USN acquired it in 1983, but the TASM was very mission-specific, and in 2002 at least 320 missiles, still in good conditions, were modified into standard land-attack Tomahawks, used much more frequently as we know.
The Tomahawk Block IV Plus is much more attractive because technologically mature and much more multi-mission than the original TASM. It will be able to strike land targets without problems, and will be better able, indeed, to pursue moving, relocating targets.
The presence of a passive radar sensors, besides, could easily turn the Tomahawk IV Plus in an extremely effective, ultra-long range SEAD asset, useful to locate and shut down enemy radars to blind air defence networks.   

We will see what happens. But a battery of 24 missiles capable to strike ships and land targets perhaps 300 km away would give the Type 26 a formidable capability, so i hope to see the Perseus concept going ahead, and SSGW taking on a much more defined shape.
With an eye open and looking towards the Type 45 as well: there's space for 16 additional VLS cells, and a 8x2 Sylver A70 module filled with the SSGW would complete the destroyer's capability, giving it the multimission capability it needs.  


  1. once again gabriele, a fantastic informative article. I regularly read your blog and check almost daily to see if there's a new one present. Being an international relations student, specializing in modern warfare, your articles are both engaging and factual and i thoroughly enjoy them! Keep them coming!



    1. I'm very glad you decided to comment then! I'm happy to hear that my articles are of some interest. I'll do my best to keep them coming whenever i have the time to write. There's many subjects to talk about, more than i can follow timely.

      Next one will probably be a direct comparison of equipment and manpower holdings of the armed forces of Germany, France and the UK.

      Keep in mind that your comments are always more than welcome. Keep visiting, and i hope i'll continue to write interesting stuff for you all.


    2. Sounds great, i thoroughly look forward to it! Perhaps discuss the military Germany should have owing to its economic strength? Food for thought!

  2. Great piece Gabriele,

    I thought the three roles would be just to diverse for missile system, the anti submarine missile as your article pointed out is just a rocket boosted homing torpedo.

    I think for the RN at least the dedicated heavy anti ship missile is coming to an end.( Our rules of engagment are so strict if it is not against the chinese high fleet then they never be used). If the capacity is to be retained then a multi role missile is required as you have said, Land attack first secondary anti ship.
    The perseus sounds good but is decades away, i would
    1)Fit spare harpoon missiles to type 45 in the near term
    2)Develop Tomahawk plus for surface and subsurface use
    3)At the same time adapt the Sylver A70 for TLAM

    As for the Type 26, instead of the 24 SSGW i will go 16 Tomahawk plus and 8 VLS fire shadow (i know the wheeled launcher chained to the deck is simpler and alot cheaper, but i think the advantage of quick launch or multiple launchs has so much going for it)

    Sorry Gab, i think i just repeated what u said, but this has been on my mind alot of recent just proves i am not a lone voice lol

    1. I have reserves on the Sylver A70 and TLAM integration.
      It might be less expensive to fit MK41 Strike Lenght cells on a Type 45 in addition to the existing Sylver cells than put a new missile into the A70.

      This would have to be studied by someone who's got all the data, though.

  3. Gabriele,

    The Brahmos is impressive and intimidating, but like other existing supersonic anti-ship missiles (Chinese or Taiwanese), they belong to a different school. For one, there are serious complications in updating a supersonic weapon in flight compared to a slower system. So it's shoot and pray for the Russians. And most slower systems are likely to be better off at the sea-skimming profile i.e. they would be more stealthy.

    Now, compare the dimensions of the Brahmos with that of Exocet or even the Norwegian NSM. Your average Eurofighter can easily mount four JSM missiles along with a full complement of 3 fuel tanks and AAMs. The only aircraft which can mount something like the Brahmos would be F-15E or SU-30.

  4. Gabriele

    How about the only missile to currently fit the A70 ? The SCALP-N would need only IR seeker and software changes to take on an anti-ship role; although an optimized warhead might help.

  5. SCALP-Navale goes nowhere in my book. At a pricetag of 950 million euro for 250 missiles, as paid by France, it would be a folly.

    In addition, it is a duplicate of TLAM that does NOT offer the same performances, mainly by having half the range.

    I happily leave Scalp-N to whoever is mad enough to pay its absurd cost.

  6. Interesting reading. Though I think you missed a lot of the key points about the NSM/JSM.

    1. Totally passive. Even the terrain reference system uses laser instead of radar IIRC.

    There are no emissions which can be detected by esm.

    Most ashm use radar to guide them onto the target. When they activate their radar they alert their targets esm to their presence enabling the ship to power up it's radar and target the missile.

    This means that ships can sail with their radar not needing to be on and emitting signals.

    The only way to detect an NSM is to sail with your radar on at all times, thus telling everyone where you are.

    2) Terrain masking
    Additionally the NSM flies at extremely low level and uses the terrain where available to mask itself.

    Hence the first time you have a theoretical chance of detecting the NSM is when it enters your radar horizon at about 15nm. However the NSM is stealthy meaning additional time is most likely needed before detection.

    This leaves very little time for the ship defences to work.

    3) Manouvering and countermeasures
    And they have to contend with a missile with extreme agility and stealth, as well as ecm making targeting it difficult.

    4) No known passive countermeasures
    The missile uses imaging infrared homing with a target database, meaning current passive countermeasures will be innefective.

    5) Target discrimination
    Aditionally it discrimitates between targets so other than unfriendly ships are not hit. This means the missile can be launched at a general area without specific targeting information needed.

    Perhaps this would fall into your definition of a sci-fi seeker?

  7. Sorry, no. These are good features, but nothing genuinely revolutionary on my book. Even FASGW(H) is going to offer them.

    1. Gabriele,

      The NSM is revolutionary in its size alone (roughly half the weight of a Harpoon). Smaller size means more missiles on most of your assets at a lower cost. While it's warhead may be smaller, it will still be able to cause plenty of damage to most likely threats other than carriers.

  8. What?

    The FASGW(H) is according to my googling going to weight 110kg and have a range of 50km launched from a helicopter.

    From the info I could see it uses a man in the loop combined with Ir homing to discriminate targets and select a hit point.

    I don't see anything comparable here to the NSM.

    Seems more like the old Penguin from a guidance perspective.

    Could you elaborate please?

  9. It is right, the FASGW(H) is an helicopter weapon, and relatively small. Nonetheless, it is going to have good range (even if for now it is unspecified) and thanks to its IIR seeker it will have many of the features of the NSM, just on a different scale.

    For as good as it is, NSM is nothing you'd class as really that new and revolutionary.

  10. To my mind the FASGW(H) is not designed for the same high threat environment the NSM is, so I find the comparison difficult.

    For taking out less well defended targets I'm sure the FASGW(H) should suffice.

    It remains to be seen what features it will have when development is complete.

    Terrain mapping?
    Land attack?

    Perhaps as development progresses more information will be available.

  11. It is more a matter of size and warhead than environment: FASGW(H) is smaller, and thus less lethal.

    For the little we know, FASGW(H) should definitely be capable of striking land targets as well. There was indeed some talk of using it as a base for SPEAR capability block 3 as well. It does not seem that this will happen, but probably there will be elements of the seeker migrating onto SPEAR 3.

    Maneuver was also a key requirement, due to littoral operations needs.

  12. It was quite ludicrous to commission the Type 45 without a strong anti-ship function but it seems the norm of Western navies to have the anti-ship role dedicated to aircraft--more so for the US Navy (their DDGs are also missing a Harpoon launcher)

  13. You run a fantastic blog here and as a Defence Enthusiast myself I am keen to constantly return to your blog to check for updates! An excellent insight into the Defence of the UK and In particular the Type 26. However, can you confirm that this is the type 26 as BAE has not officaly announced this as its current design? On another hand, how many do you think, realistically the Royal Navy will have, looking at the Current state of the UK's Defence Policy and Economy? I'd hope for about 16 if we can export it to the likes of Brazil and India. What do you think? Please keep me updated on the Royal Navy as I believe it is during this age the most important armed force once we leave Afghanistan. Also can you look into the whole Perseus idea as the ships main armament? I personally from what I have read here think it is a brilliant idea, Capability, Logistically and Lethality wise, not to mention cost effectiveness and the potential for export and to replace the Tomahawk and Harpoon. Once again, Thank-you!

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Sorry for the late reply, but i was away in the last few days.

      As for the Type 26, this design is the latest that BAE has been showing. We can assume that it is what they are working on following the first "Capability Decision Point" they had in November 2011 with the MOD, but of course we cannot say that "this is it". Changes, even very substantial, are still more than possible, and until Main Gate, the design will stay quite flexible.

      As for numbers, i think that getting all the 13 the Navy hopes for would already be a real good start. I'm not really hoping for more, as realistically even getting 13 will be a challenge, judging from recent history.

      As for Perseus, not too much is known for now, but i'll try and make a post about it sometime.

      Other than that, i'll try to keep you all up to date with whatever happens. Thank you again, i'm glad you like my work.


Everybody can comment on this blog without needing a Blogger account. It is meant to keep the discussion free and open to everyone. Unfortunately, anonymous accounts keep the door open for spammers and trolls, so i'm forced to moderate comments and approve them before they appear. Apologies for the inconvenience.