U.S. Navy Tests Advanced Ship Defense System

File image courtesy Raytheon

By The Maritime Executive 05-18-2016 09:07:13

The U.S. Navy has conducted two tests of Raytheon's SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system against maneuvering, supersonic targets, with successful intercepts. 

The shots "included one in which two supersonic missiles were inbound simultaneously, flying in complex, evasive maneuvers. In both flights, SeaRAM detected, tracked and engaged the threats, and fired Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2 guided missiles which successfully intercepted the targets," Raytheon said in a statement. 

The tests were conducted on the Navy's Self Defense Test Ship, the former USS Paul F. Foster, at a range off the coast of Southern California.

SeaRAM combines elements of the well-established Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (a high-rate-of-fire cannon for surface-to-air defense) and Rolling Airframe Missile Guided Weapon System (RAM). RAM developed out of the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and has been in service since the 1990s. Phalanx is on board all U.S. Navy surface combatant ships and on the naval vessels of two dozen allied nations, Raytheon says. The firm offers a land-based version of Phalanx as well. 

Raytheon says that SeaRAM combines the RAM's accuracy, extended range and maneuverability with the Phalanx Block 1B's high-resolution search-and-track sensor systems and quick-response capability.

SeaRAM is currently fitted on three Independence-class littoral combat ships and on the Arleigh Burke-class ballistic missile defense ship USS Porter, with plans for further installations on other vessels of these classes.

Rear Adm. Jon Hill told USNI News last year that integrating SeaRAM into a missile defense-tasked ship like the Porter had posed a special challenge. “The big thing you have to worry about is fratricide – so where you put that mount on the ship, it’s looking right over the vertical launching system, so what you don’t want to have happen is you’re shooting something with the SeaRAM while missiles are coming out of the VLS,” he said.

The supersonic anti-ship missiles that SeaRAM targets are evolving rapidly. The jointly developed Indian/Russian BrahMos ramjet cruise missile is said to be capable of Mach 2.8 or more; a new hypersonic version under development, BrahMos-II, aims to achieve Mach 7. A Mach 3+ miniaturized version with smaller radar cross-section is planned as well.