Air Defense: CLAWS

November 6, 2006: The U.S. Marine Corps has, after seven years of effort, completed development of CLAWS (Complementary Low Altitude Weapons System,) by finishing a 14 month test program, two months early. Also called SLAMRAAM by the U.S. Army, which got involved in the project two years ago, the system uses the U.S. Air Force AMRAAM radar guided air-to-air missile. Four of these are mounted on a hummer. A firing battery consists of one fire-control center, a radar (with a 75 kilometer range) and four to eight hummers carrying missiles. The CLAWS missiles have an effective range of 25 kilometers, and can knock down cruise missiles, as well as helicopters.

The AMRAAM is the most modern air-to-air missile in American service, and has its own radar for making its final approach to its target. SLAMRAAM has been seen deployed around Washington DC, for the last three years, as a defense against any terrorist aircraft attempting to attack. The SLAMRAAM concept was first developed by Norway. The system has been adopted by several other countries (including Spain and Kuwait). Seeing all that, the U.S. Marines then began developing their own version, called CLAWS.

A box launcher is used by the Norwegian system (called NASAMS). The ground launched AMRAAM can hit targets as high as 13,000 feet. NASAMS was developed so that it could easily work with different search radars. The 350 pound AMRAAM SAM costs more (about $600,000 each) compared to the air-to-air version (about $380,000), but is basically the same missile. The twelve foot long AMRAAM has its own radar, for ensuring a hit once it has been guided to the vicinity of the target. The missile has a fifty pound warhead, and can take down just about anything that flies, including wide-body commercial transports.

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