In recent decades, navies worldwide and the global defence industry have started to tackle the new airborne, missile and surface threats. The latter has influenced the development of multi-layered defence concepts for naval forces.
The emergence of new supersonic, high-diving and highly manoeuvrable anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and new asymmetric threats has accelerated the development of new inner layer defence systems (ILDS), in which defenders are networked and extend their range, and where research is undertaken into innovative weapons, such as lasers.
With over 1,000 systems in service with US and 25 customers – and more in production for the US Navy, US Coast Guard and other navies – the Raytheon Mk 15 is the most diffuse self-contained all-weather, day-and-night, fully-automatic from search to engagement Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) with its own radar/electro-optic suite. The system is available in both the PHALANX variant with the 20mm M61A1 six-barrel Gatling gun capable of 4,500 rounds/min fire-rate with armour-piercing rounds and a 1,550 rounds magazine, and the Mod 31/32 SeaRAM variant with an 11-round launcher for the Raytheon Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) RIM-116B/C Block 1A/2 for extended ASCM coverage. The Raytheon CIWS entered service in 1980. In recent years, Raytheon introduced the Block 1B surface mode configuration, which incorporates a stabilised thermal imager and an automatic video tracker to counter asymmetric threats, including small, fast, surface, and slow air threats such as UAVs as well as ASCMs engagement. The Mk 15 was also subjected to radar upgrades (Block 1B Baseline 2) that introduced a ‘state-of-the-art’ digital system to improve performance against advanced ASCMs and to increase reliability. To keep the systems in service until 2040, according to US Navy FY2021 budget request documentation, in FY2018 a limited Technology Refresh development started for the Electric Gun Drive System (EGDS), with completion in FY 2019/2020. To be integrated during overhauls, the EGDS will replace the current pneumatic gun-driven system and it will reduce maintenance and support costs and allow also for variable firing rates (currently not available) with reduced ammunition expenditures.
Moreover, the US Navy is working on the High Energy Laser Counter ASCM project (HELCAP) to assess, develop, and demonstrate the various laser weapon technologies needed to defeat ASCMs in a crossing engagement. The knowledge gained in the Navy Laser Family of System efforts, including the Ruggedised High Energy Laser activities, the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation, the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System Increment 1 or High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) and the Optical Dazzling Interdictor Navy programmes, together with the new HELCAP technical solutions to the ASCM threats, will enable an informed decision to field an integrated, fleet-ready HEL weapon. The FY2021 budget will provide for systems engineering, mission analysis, and the design completion, fabrication and integration of major components of a HELCAP prototype for an experimentation and demonstration phase between FY2022-2023.
In March 2018, Thales Nederland announced the successful sea acceptance trials of the first upgraded system under the GOALKEEPER Upkeep (CIWS) programme. The upgrade includes a new colour TV and IR electro-optical set, latest generation control station, operational software and processing power. These improvements provide added accuracy, reduced reaction time, and enhanced multi-target engagement capabilities against the latest ASCM and asymmetric seaborne threats.
The upgrades will be ready on-board by 2022. The Netherlands MoD is expected to unveil a replacement programme in 2020. In the meantime, Thales Nederland and LIG Nex1 signed a contract for the overhaul of the first two GOALKEEPER systems on board South Korean Navy’s KDX-I ships. The overhaul will be carried out in cooperation with the Dutch MoD and LIG Nex1. The latter announced in April 2019 the opening of a new GOALKEEPER maintenance facility at the company’s Gumi plant.
Rheinmetall Defence is offering the Oerlikon MILLENNIUM naval gun system, based on the Rheinmetall Air Defence’s 35mm 35/1000 revolver gun system. The system fires the Advanced Hit Efficiency and Destruction (AHEAD) 35mm x 228 multi-purpose ammunition, which forms the core of Oerlikon revolver gun Mk 2/3, SKYSHIELD/SKYRANGER fixed/mobile land-based all-weather short-range air defence and C-RAM-capable systems and the Mantis C-RAM system. The Oerlikon MILLENNIUM matches the 1000 rounds/min firing rate of the 35-mm revolver gun and AHEAD air-burst ammunition. Each round contains 152 tungsten sub-projectiles forming a lethal cone-shaped cloud ahead of the incoming target. The MILLENNIUM mounting incorporates an AHEAD computer, which measures the muzzle velocity of each projectile and then programmes the fuse using an induction coil on the extremity of the muzzle break. The high-muzzle velocity resulting in a short flight time, high accuracy, high single-burst firing rate, together with a ready-to-fire 252 magazine of AHEAD ammunition enabling multiple engagements, allows the gun to cope with a wide range of threats. On the basis of hit probability, MILLENNIUM can defeat ASCMs at ranges between 1-3 km and asymmetric threats such as multiple-axis swarms of fast attack craft up to 4.5 km, among others. MILLENIUM does not require through-deck penetration and is available in both standard and ISO-mount installation, the latter being a container-shaped mechanical structure for rapid mounting and dismounting with an additional 252-round magazine.
Capable to be controlled by shipborne advanced sensors or an optional gun-mounted small tracking sensor unit and operated as combat system-integrated weapon system, the MILLENIUM was extensively tested and evaluated by the US Navy and its first customer, the Danish Navy. The system is also operated by Venezuelan and Indonesian Navy and has been selected by Saudi Arabia for its new Navantia-designed corvettes.
Medium Calibre Guided Ammunitions
Developed according to Italian Navy requirements, the 76/62 Single Deck system combines the 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun fire capabilities in the so-called ‘Strales configuration’ with conventional and Driven Ammunition with Reduced Time of Flight (DART) sub-calibre guided ammunitions with a revolutionary low-impact and lightweight installation. The latter reduces the overall gun-mount weight to around six tonnes without ammunition, almost 40% less than the 76/62 Super Rapido with under-deck magazine and Strales ammunition guidance package. The new 76/62 Single Deck features a new gun-mount architecture characterised by a turret configuration with non-intrusive above-deck installation, where two independent ammunition magazines are installed in the elevating mass together with the self-contained Strales ammunition guidance package.
The new gun turret features electrical actuators for the gun`s movements and loading system. The gun mount features a reduced footprint and a stealth design extended to the gun barrel with the DART guided ammunitions’ Ka-band guidance radar antenna installed behind two doors, which open when the system is operating. The new advanced single-block gun barrel without a water-based cooling system allows the same Super Rapido rate-of-fire (120 rounds/min), while due to the two interchangeable ammunition magazines, each hosting up to 38 rounds, the 76/62 Single Deck can fire conventional and DART-guided ammunitions equipped with latest 4AP smart fuse, offering increased kill probability against air and littoral targets. The gun is also suitable for long-range Vulcano 76 non-guided/guided ammunitions. The sub-calibre DART projectiles have an effective range of up to eight km and a 1200 m/s initial velocity, allowing to cover five km in seconds, which makes the system just as effective against ASCM targets as a missile but at a fraction of the cost, according to Leonardo.
Currently undergoing qualification, the 76/62 Single Deck is installed on Italian Navy’s first-of-class Pattugliatore Polivalente d’Altura, launched in May 2019 and waiting for acceptance trails. Although the new weapon interfaces with the CMS and fire control system, the 76/62 Single Deck is also available in an alternative and lighter variant without the Strales guidance package. The latter capability may be provided by the ship’s gun/missile fire control system (FCS), two of which are being considered: the Leonardo dual-band (X/Ka) radar/EO NA-30S Mk2 and the Thales Nederland PHAROS Ka-band radar-only FCS. Initial renderings released by the Dutch MoD and Thales Nederland of the future multirole frigates for the Belgian and Dutch navies show the new gun and PHAROS FCS, highlighting a strong interest in the binomial.
In June 2019, the US Navy successfully tested the RIM-116C RAM in the Block 2A version, which paved the way for the first deliveries in late 2019. The Block 2A is the first of two versions of RAM Block 2’s capability enhancement programme launched in FY2016. The programme aims to improve system performance against a stream raid threat scenario. Developed by Raytheon and the German RAMSys consortium (MBDA Deutschland and Diehl group’s companies), the RAM/Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS) is an all-weather missile-based ILDS with an integral dual-mode (passive RF/IR) guidance, which switches to passive RF seeker after launch for acquisition lock/mid-course guidance and passes to the IR seeker head for the terminal phase. The RAM missiles are fired by the 21-round Mk 49 RAM GMLS launcher and the Mk 15 Mod 32 SeaRAM system. In service with the US, Japan and Saudi Arabia sometime soon, the Mk 15 Mod 32 SeaRAM is based on the PHALANX Mk 15 Block 1B system mount with a RAM 11-round launcher and comes with radar/EO and inherent autonomous threat evaluation and weapon designation capability. Next to the US and Germany, the Block 1/2 RAM missile versions are used by Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and UAE and are under consideration by Qatar, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
The Block 2 version achieved initial operational capability in May 2015 and entered full production in November 2018, including new-production and renewed Block 1A munitions. The Block 2 has a larger and more powerful motor and independent four-canard control actuators to increase its effective range by 50% and deliver a three-fold improvement in manoeuvrability, a digital autopilot and enhanced passive RF seeker to defeat newer classes of ASCM. Under the Block 2 capability enhancement programme and the Fire Control Loop Improvement Project Phase 2 designed to improve coordination across all elements of US Navy’s Ship’s Self Defence System sensors and weapons suite, the Block 2A introduces software modifications to the RAM guidance section in order to provide multi-target processing and manage multiple missiles attacks scenarios.
The follow-on RAM Block 2B Raid engineering change proposal (ECP) introduces an improved IR seeker and a Missile-to-Missile Link (MML) capability. Reportedly, the latter allows communications between missiles for target prioritisation/allocation against complex raid threats. According to the US Navy’s FY2021 budget documentation, development flights tests are planned for FY2022.
Already in service or under delivery to eight customers, including Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, and UAE, the MBDA VL MICA system is looking to the new-generation MICA NG missile to enlarge its customers’ portfolio. The VL MICA uses the current-generation MICA munition, available with either active radar or imaging infrared seekers to provide protection out to a range of approximately 20 km. Eliminating the VLS need, the full tactical VL MICA ammunition integrates a single missile all-up-round with a single-use autonomous firing and storage canister with an integrated efflux duct, in order to vent motor efflux upwards on launch. The use of a vertical launch and the absence of dedicated target trackers provide for a 360-degree engagement capability against simultaneous and multiple targets. The new-generation MICA NG missile, of which a development and production contract was awarded by the French MoD`s procurement authority DGA to MBDA as prime contractor in November 2018, will retain the same aerodynamics, mass, centre of gravity and interfaces to ensure its compatibility and also minimise the amount of adaption required to operate the new system with existing platforms and launchers. According to the DGA, the technological improvements of the VL MICA and its ITAR-free technologies offer the MICA NG a large export market. A new dual-pulse rocket motor developed by Roxel and smaller electronic components, as an enhanced Safran inertial system, allow for more propellant and, therefore, a longer range (reportedly 30% more than the current generation) and improved manoeuvrability. The MICA NG in the IR variant features a new Safran/MBDA seeker with a matrix sensor providing greater sensitivity and countermeasures resistance, while the RF variant will feature a new active electronically scanned antenna (AESA)-based seeker, enabling ‘smart detection strategies’. With a new two-way datalink, a new RF proximity fuse warhead and weapon status monitoring system, all provided by MBDA, the MICA NG retains the lock-on before/after launch (LOBL/LOAL) engagement modes and will be able to address current and future threats, with deliveries starting from 2026. Aside from the ammunition canisters themselves, the only other VL MICA’s below-deck equipment is the sequencer cabinet, which links the VL MICA missiles to the ship combat management system (CMS), receives inputs from the ship inertial system, and provides the link to the Ship Missile Data Link (SMDL). The SMDL comprises a below-decks transmitter with four small uplink antennas fitted around the masthead.
Developed by MBDA group as the main air defence for fast patrol boats, auxiliary and amphibious ships as well as the complementary air defence system for first-line combatant platforms, the SIMBAD-RC is a lightweight, remotely controlled, close-in defence system, which uses latest MISTRAL 3 short-range surface-to-air missile version against a range of conventional and asymmetric threats, from aircraft through to sea-skimming and manoeuvring anti-ship missiles or small-sized threats, such as UAVs, as well as small surface threats up to a range of 7.5 km, according to MBDA. The baseline SIMBAD-RC architecture is centred on up two light-weight, gyro-stabilised launchers equipped with two ‘lock-on before launch’ (LOBL) MISTRAL infrared-homing missiles and a Safran MATIS SP mid-waveband thermal camera with a large field-of-view day camera, all managed by a compact terminal known as SMU-RC and interfaced with the ship’s combat system or surveillance sensors. The latest MISTRAL 3 missile version is equipped with new guidance and electronics with an imaging IR seeker developed by Safran and advanced image processing capabilities enabling the engagement of low-thermal signature targets, such as small UAVs and turbojet-powered missiles in addition to excellent resistance to countermeasures, and improved range.
The MISTRAL 3 also validated surface-to-surface capabilities against asymmetric threats due to new software, guidance and trajectory enhancements, demonstrating dual-role capabilities. Although MBDA has not disclosed which are SIMBAD-RC customers, ESD understands that the system is already or will be in service in single- or dual-launcher configuration with Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and has already been acquired by Senegal. Among other potential customers, ESD understands that the SIMBAD-RC (in two twin-launcher configuration) is being offered to the French Navy to protect the new BRF (Bâtiment de Ravitaillement de Force) logistic support ships under procurement. The MISTRAL 3 being launched by two refurbished Sadral remote-controlled launchers was also selected as the air defence system for the French Navy’s mid-life upgrade of the LA FAYETTE class frigates. The French Navy uses the SIMBAD, SMBAD-RC and SADRAL launchers with MISTRAL missiles. During IDEX 2019, MBDA unveiled the Self–Protection Integrated MISTRAL Module, a self-contained short-range air-defence system for all-type of ships, centred on a 10’ ISO standard module with two command and control operator consoles and an on-top SIMBAB-RC launcher with two missile and reserve rounds.
In November 2017, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) declared the Naval IRON DOME, currently called C-DOME, operational after 18 months of testing on board an Israeli Navy’s SA’AR 5 corvette. Based on the combat-proven land-based IRON DOME air defence system, which has achieved to-date more than 2,400 successful intercepts, the naval version was developed by the IDF and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems ‘to protect strategic naval and land assets against advanced aerial, ballistic and surface-to-surface threats’. According to Rafael, C-DOME improves the capability to protect assets at sea and on land, trade routes and naval task forces, ensuring vessel protection and high-kill probability against maritime and coastal threats. C-DOME enables hemispheric protection against saturation attacks from multiple directions simultaneously, integrating into the ship’s own radar and CMS. In January 2019, the Israeli MoD said that it had successfully tested an improved version of the land-based IRON DOME system and that it was likely that C-DOME will also receive these improvements. C-DOME consists of a up-to-10 round vertical launcher assemblies loaded with TAMIR interceptors for 360-degree coverage. It relies on the ship’s surveillance radar and does not need a dedicated fire control radar, while the weapon command and control unit is integrated with ship’s combat management system. Rafael says the interceptors are maintenance-free and can be installed on smaller naval platforms, such as corvettes and patrol ship due to the system`s reduced footprint. C-DOME was integrated for shipborne fire-trials with IAI/ELTA ELM-2248 AESA MF-STAR (Multi-Function, Surveillance, Tracking and Guidance Radar) radar, which is also integrated into the Israeli Navy’s SA’AR 6 class corvettes that will receive an incremented number of TAMIR interceptors. ESD understands that the future RESHEF class naval platforms to replace the SA’AR 4.5 corvettes will also receive the C-DOME managed by Elta ELM-2258 Advanced Lightweight Phased Array rotating AESA radar.