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UK and NATO navies take further small steps in developing ballistic missile defence


Apr 28, 2011

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

NATO warships will gather for Exercise Joint Warrior (JW15-2) in Scottish waters from 5th-16th October 2015. This large biannual event has been running for many years and covers the full spectrum naval operations. This month JW15-2 will introduce a unique component with an at sea demonstration (ASD15) of a ballistic missile interception. Networked sensors aboard several NATO warships will be used to track and destroy an Aegis Readiness Assessment Vehicle (ARAV) ballistic missile surrogate with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) fired from USS Ross. The exercise is the first of its kind in European waters and will help test and evaluate interoperability between participating warships and provide data for further development.

Raytheon SM-3 launched from Mk-41 cells aboard a USN warship

The Royal Navy is the only arm of the UK forces with any interest in anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability although funding has limited development to small incremental steps. The Type 45 destroyer was designed primarily to defend ships at sea from air and conventional missile attack but its Sampson radar is highly sophisticated and has the potential to track ballistic missiles in the outer atmosphere. The UK established the Missile Defence Centre (MDC) as far back as 2003 (in collaboration with the US) to work on ABM projects, with a focus on software and radar enhancements for the Type 45. The fruits of this work were seen in September 2013 when HMS Daring successfully detected and tracked two medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) targets on a US-owned test range off the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

Detecting and tracking missiles is just the first hurdle, destruction requires a powerful long-range missile and sophisticated software. The Aster-30 missiles carried by the T45 for air defence (pictured above) have the range but are not yet ABM-capable. A Franco-Italian project to develop an ABM-capable Aster-30 Block 2 is underway but the RN is looking more likely to go for the proven US missile – the Raytheon SM-3.

In October 2014 the RN started a project to asses the feasibility and cost of installing two x eight-cell MK-41 vertical launch systems (VLS) on the Type 45. Designed from the outset with upgrades in mind, a vacant space was deliberately left between the 4.5″ gun and the main missile silo (currently used as a gym by the ships companies). The 16 strike-length Mk 41 cells could accommodate a wide variety of useful weapons including the SM-3s, Tomahawk and possibly the Lockheed Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM).

The Labour government decision to cut the Type 45 programme from the planned 12 ships down to 6 is an ever-increasing source of regret.

Restarting Type 45 construction would be ludicrously expensive and most improbable (as explained here). Apart from the wide range of general tasks they undertake, these highly capable vessels will be required to provide air defence for the RN aircraft carrier. The emergence of the Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is a significant threat to carriers and has undobtedly been a stimulus to ABM technology in the US and is also a consideration for the RN.

To maintain a standing ABM defence for the UK mainland with the 6 Type 45s might be possible but would leave dangerous gaps elsewhere. Nevertheless there would be huge value to the UK and its allies in possessing ABM-equipped warships. The USN has already ‘forward-deployed’ 4 ABM-equipped destroyers to Europe. There are also French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Norwegian warships that have this potential and any moves that contribute to a European missile ‘umbrella’ are to be welcomed.

Although retaining our own ballistic missile system in the form of Trident is the primary means of deterrence for the UK, developing the capability to destroy enemy ballistic missiles would seem to be a very wise step. The UK is virtually defenceless against attack from cruise missiles and ballistic missiles in particular. Ship-based ABM systems are an attractive option due to their mobility with the command & control, sensors and missiles integrated into a single platform. Destroying ballistic missiles in flight is an extremely challenging proposition. Even with multiple alert and capable vessels, it would be a tall order to completely defeat the bombardment of ICBMs that could occur in a full-scale nuclear war. However ABM systems offer protection against a rogue states in possession of a few weapons, as well as defence for the carrier from ASBMs. Systems that could prevent the destruction of an entire city must be made a priority. Global proliferation of ballistic missiles underscores the need for UK ABM systems which should be given due consideration in the defence review currently underway.

Pictured: NATO warships participating in JW15-2 with Anti-Ballistic Missile capabilities involved in the At Sea Demonstration

Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless fitted with the Sampson radar and Aster-30 missiles

American Arliegh Burke class destroyer USS Ross – fitted with the AEGIS System and Standard SM-3 Missiles

Italian Horizon class destroyer ITS Andrea Doria – fitted with the Sampson radar and Aster-30 missiles

Spanish F-100 class destroyer SPS Almirante Juan de Borbón – fitted with the AEGIS System and Standard SM-2 Block IIIA Missiles

Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provinciën fitted with r SMART-L and the multi-function radar APAR tracking radar & carries 32 SM-2 Block IIIA missiles



Jan 11, 2009

Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provinciën fitted with r SMART-L and the multi-function radar APAR tracking radar & carries 32 SM-2 Block IIIA missiles

...as well as 32 ESSM.

The similarly equipped German F124 has 1 MK. 41 VLS Tactical with 32 cells for 24 SM-2 Block IIIA and 32 RIM-162 ESSM (quad-packs per cell) surface-to-air missiles.

The similarly equipped Danish Ivar Huitfeldt has 4 × Mk 41 VLS with up to 32 SM-2 IIIA surface-to-air missiles plus
2 × Mk 56 VLS with up to 24 RIM-162 ESSM.

You may well also see Extended Range Active Missile (ERAM) SM-6 on these ships and their preparation for integration into the USA's Naval Integrated Fire Control - Counter Air (NIFC-CA). The US has already has awarded a contract for RIM-174 Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) Block I/IA All-Up Rounds (AURs) and spares. This award constitutes an option as part of the fourth year of full-rate production (FRP-4) for the SM-6 missile, which has already entered service in the extended-range anti-air warfare (AAW) and lower tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) roles. For SM-6 to go into a non-Aegis weapon system, using a different uplink [frequency] requires some sort of development to add a new [communications] band. The active radar homing Evolved SeaSparrow Missile [ESSM] Block 2 will have dual-band transceiver capability with an S- and X- band plate.

Block IIIA, which achieved IOC in 1994, incorporated the Mk 125 directional warhead and the Mk 45 Mod 9 Target Detection Device (TDD) to improve performance and lethality against sea-skimming threats. All Block IIA rounds delivered from 2000 onwards are enabled for Interrupted Continuous Wave Illumination (ICWI) guidance, allowing sampled data homing and uplinking.
The further improved Block IIIB variant introduced an infrared (IR) guidance mode developed under the Missile Homing Improvement Program (MHIP) to improve performance in a stressing electronic countermeasures environment. Achieving IOC in 1998, the Block IIIB uses a side-mounted adjunct IR sensor to complement the semi-active radar homing channel and improve endgame performance against stressing targets. Missile guidance logic is expanded to synthesise information from the ship and from both missile seekers: once the missile has evaluated the information from each seeker it decides which one to use for guidance to the target.
A manoeuvrability upgrade (SM-2 Block IIIB/MU2) has subsequently been developed and implemented to enhance IIIB performance against low-altitude, supersonic manoeuvring threats.
Initial funding has been programmed in FY 2017 for requirements definition and risk reduction work in support of the planned SM-2 Improvement programme. "We want to modify existing SM-2 inventory to bring in active seeker technology and to give ourselves an affordable medium-range active missile to address some inherent limitations in semi-active guidance," Capt Ladner said. "SM-2 is still very capable, but an active technology offers some key capability advantages over semi-active.
"That ECP programme to bring active seeker technology, leveraging from SM-6 and ESSM Block 2, starts in 2017."

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