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Surface Forces: Speedy Sparrows Sink Suicide Boats
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September 29, 2008: The U.S. Navy is upgrading its Sea Sparrow ship defense systems with a new day/night vidcam that can identify small boats 20 kilometers distant, so that Sea Sparrow can be used to destroy them if they appear hostile (suicide bombs or missiles). For testing purposes, the amphibious ship (LHD) USS Boxer recently identified a seven foot long target boat, and hit it with Sea Sparrows at a range of about seven kilometers. Most U.S. amphibious ships and carriers are armed with the Sea Sparrow.

The Sea Sparrow was designed for defense against anti-ship missiles and aircraft. For the former, the system is on automatic, because some anti-ship missiles make their final approach at the speed of a rifle bullet. The 12 foot long, 500 pound Sea Sparrow is  as fast, and uses a proximity fuze to detonate when close enough (8 meters) to destroy the target. The radar can lock on to a target at 90 kilometers, while the missile itself can reach out to about 50 kilometers. The Sea Sparrow launcher has eight cells, each with one missile.

 

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Ike2    Say WHAT???   9/29/2008 10:31:14 AM
  As I read it, if you want to disable a ship?s defenses against anti-ship missiles, you launch a USV, have it track the target in an aggressive manner, getting the ship to ?go to manual?, and launch the ASMs.

Someone screwed the pooch. The USV system needs to be separate from the ASM system.

 
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doggtag    nothing wrong with dual-use weapons on ships...   9/29/2008 1:41:25 PM
....that's one reason why guns were kept so long into the age of guided missiles.
 
But,
it becomes unwise when we have just the one system as the single and primary weapon,
and it's expected to perform all the roles: lose that one system, and your defenses slip to relying solely on your escorts.
 
Nothing wrong in making the SeaSparrow a dual-use weapon (anti air, to include missiles, and anti surface).
But it shouldn't be relied on to be the primary system for both roles (solely for that one chance occurence where you find yourself in a worst-case saturation attack scenario, and your limited missile directors can't handle the numerous targets).
There should be a complimentary or back up system that can play surrogate in either role, should the SeaSparrow launcher crap out (one reason why numerous US vessels use both the SeaSparrow and Phalanx, as neither is an all-inclusive perfect defense).
 
As further testing and refinement comes along with integrating the NetFires system into the LCS,
for all the bigger a NetFires CLU (Command Launch Unit) "pod" is, it should be readily capable of future integration into all manner of USN surface fleet vessels, taking up minimal deck space and ship electrical power.
Perhaps they can be tipped of by some very small (even cheap and expendable?) UAVs that can be sent out several km beyond the ship to keep tabs on unknown contacts, and make it easier to rapidly engage those threats if they go hostile, leaving the ship-mounted SAMs still available for sudden ASMs or aircraft appearing.
 
But in many areas where there are limited or no aircraft and anti-ship missile threats,
the warhead, speed, and range of a SeaSparrow do make it a formidable system
(although I question the "necessity" of using a 12-foot-long missile against a 7-foot-long target like a small dingy, sampan, or other possible surface raider suicide craft; here's where the Phalanx, numerous pintle-mounted deck MGs, turreted cannon, and smaller missiles like NetFires, or even Javelin, would be a more preferrable weapon).
 
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nyetneinnon       9/30/2008 3:10:40 AM
Good points..

....that's one reason why guns were kept so long into the age of guided missiles.

 

But,

it becomes unwise when we have just the one system as the single and primary weapon,

and it's expected to perform all the roles: lose that one system, and your defenses slip to relying solely on your escorts.

 

Nothing wrong in making the SeaSparrow a dual-use weapon (anti air, to include missiles, and anti surface).

But it shouldn't be relied on to be the primary system for both roles (solely for that one chance occurence where you find yourself in a worst-case saturation attack scenario, and your limited missile directors can't handle the numerous targets).

There should be a complimentary or back up system that can play surrogate in either role, should the SeaSparrow launcher crap out (one reason why numerous US vessels use both the SeaSparrow and Phalanx, as neither is an all-inclusive perfect defense).

 

As further testing and refinement comes along with integrating the NetFires system into the LCS,

for all the bigger a NetFires CLU (Command Launch Unit) "pod" is, it should be readily capable of future integration into all manner of USN surface fleet vessels, taking up minimal deck space and ship electrical power.

Perhaps they can be tipped of by some very small (even cheap and expendable?) UAVs that can be sent out several km beyond the ship to keep tabs on unknown contacts, and make it easier to rapidly engage those threats if they go hostile, leaving the ship-mounted SAMs still available for sudden ASMs or aircraft appearing.

 

But in many areas where there are limited or no aircraft and anti-ship missile threats,

the warhead, speed, and range of a SeaSparrow do make it a formidable system

(although I question the "necessity" of using a 12-foot-long missile against a 7-foot-long target like a small dingy, sampan, or other possible surface raider suicide craft; here's where the Phalanx, numerous pintle-mounted deck MGs, turreted cannon, and smaller missiles like NetFires, or even Javelin, would be a more preferrable weapon).


Also consider perhaps:
 
1) The 12' missile vs 7' dingy was showing the pinpoint capability against such a small target 7km away, that's all. Not bad. 
2) But @ 40km range per claimed, that is one heck of a deterrent against swarming suicide speed boats, knowing that they'd have to penetrate about 30 minutes of raining ESSM rounds before contact.  An amazing capability, and about time, imo.
3) Don't doubt the ability though to rapidly shift to automatic (or anti-missile mode) from anti-ship.
4) Also, don't forget about RIM-116/RAM already deployed (autonomous SeaRAM using phalanx radar), and the block 1 (with HAS upgrade) linked to ship's sensor suites.  Perhaps a more cost-effective ordnance against smaller sea targets out to 6km.
 
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Ike2    Ignorance is bliss   9/30/2008 9:31:26 AM
I wasn't writing of weapons, but rather of tactics.
 
Tactically, it is sheer stupidity to switch to manual your primary long-range defensive system against hi-speed ASMs just to target small boats.
 
Worse: Letting all your enemies know about it.
 
The USN needs some fresh, new leadership.  But that's nothing new.
 
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Basilisk Station       9/30/2008 12:40:38 PM
If the Sea Sparrow is the USN's primary "long range defensive system" then what do you call Aegis and the Standard Missiles? It never was the primary defensive system for the USN. It's a medium/short ranged system intended for use as part of the layered defense you need to have to protect against threats. Now it's adding a longer ranged layer to the defense against speedboat style attacks
 
The only major US ships where it's the "primary" defensive system are Carriers, which have aircraft and Aegis equipped warships as far longer ranged and much more effective guards against ASMs. The only other ship of recent vintage that they provided the defense for, the Spruances are pretty much all retired.
 
Any single ship that is going to get hit by a multiple-threat, multiple axis attack, that doesn't have something on the level of an Arleigh Burke VLS load out and Aegis sensors is going to be in significant trouble, regardless of if they've used up a couple of SS against a speedboat or two.
 
As far as "telling the enemy about it goes". We're not talking about something dramatically new or revolutionary. They've had an anti-ship capability for decades. They've just tweaked the capabilities of the software and targeting systems a bit.
 
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Ike2    Are you testing?   10/1/2008 10:19:36 AM
Give me a break.  I mis-wrote about 'primary long-range defensive' weapon relative to the Sparrow.  To assert such is plain stupid.
 The SMs were never intended for low-altitude terminal defense and, to the best of my knowledge, have never been tested successfully in that regard. (From FAS: "Since only early IOT&E of SM-2 Block IV was conducted to support its LRIP decision, its capability was never fully determined (capability was not demonstrated against ASCM threat representative, maneuvering targets nor against low altitude, low Doppler targets).")  It is obvious the Sea Sparrow system was created to fill a gap.  Regardless, this is horribly off my point.
 
Putting it mildly, it IS dramatic that a terminal defense system (which is EXACTLY what it is against a low-altitude/hi-speed ASCM) would be pulled off automatic to target surface 'bogies'. The best analogy  to my original assertion is the old Springfield rifle (figure that one out for yourself).
 
It is incredible to me that the lessons of the Stark & Sheffield are still hollow.
 
 
 
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doggtag       10/1/2008 12:09:53 PM

It is incredible to me that the lessons of the Stark & Sheffield are still hollow.

The reason for that could well be the fact that the people who are today in charge of the USN and RN are not the people who were crewing those vessels when they met their unfortunate fates.

 

I'll give them points though: since the Cole incident, we've seen an increase in the number of small arms caliber and HMGs, even pintle-mounted light autocannon, that a lot of surface vessels carry now.

Maybe some of them always carried those weapons, but at least today they actually brandish them out in the open.

Baring more teeth (even small ones that can chew really fast at close range) often adds a considerable deterrent,
especially against those "little" marauders and surface raiders.
 
Thing is though, in all three instances (Stark, Sheffield, Cole), the capability was there to stare down, deter, even defend against the threats what crippled them.
The issue was a combination of ROE's and operational readiness of each vessel.
 
The Sheffield and Stark had sufficient available assets they could've better utilized in being more wary for the environments they were in (in theory and by the book, both vessels had systems capable of bringing down their threats, or at least given them a few more seconds to react.
In the case of Sheffield, its Sea Darts were more than a match for low altitude Super Etendards
ditto for the Standard MR missiles on the Stark,
and in both cases it woke up several navies to the point that ships are not invulnerable to ASMs,
something that should've been etched in stone into many people's minds as early back as the Eilat getting hit by a Styx,
and in the case of the Stark, a more battle-ready condition for the area it was in would've resulted in at least one Iraqi aircraft shot down...notice how the Vincennes didn't hesitate to bring down what was later discovered as a civilian airliner when it entered unannounced and unresponsive into a contested area where it shouldn't have been, heading too directly towards the ship to not be considered a viable threat),
and in the case of the Cole, it could've been as little as having a dozen sailors on deck doing overwatch with HMGs that could've deterred the suicide boat, or at least stopped it dead far enough away from the ship to avoid such catastrophic damage.
(it's always in hindsight that we recognize we had solutions all along, we just didn't implement them in time.)
 
I supposed the only way we're really going to get as serious as we should about just what kinds of threats will harm a surface vessel will be when we lose a flag officer or visiting politician to a threat that shouldn't have been overlooked.
Naturally, the remaining command staff of the ship in question will be immediately to blame, even if the ship wasn't so equipped to handle said threat appropriately enough.
(in some situations, it's always easier to put the blame on people, rather than insufficient equipment.)
 
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Basilisk Station       10/1/2008 2:22:28 PM

Give me a break.  I mis-wrote about 'primary long-range defensive' weapon relative to the Sparrow.  To assert such is plain stupid.

  As I read it, if you want to disable a ship?s defenses against anti-ship missiles, you launch a USV, have it track the target in an aggressive manner, getting the ship to ?go to manual?, and launch the ASMs. 
 
You twice described it as the primary defensive system or did you forget your original comment? As far as giving you a break, goes you haven't exactly been offering detailed, reasoned and thoughtful analysis of things so far. Try reading Dogtag's posts for an example of how you should go about it.

The SMs were never intended for low-altitude terminal defense and, to the best of my knowledge, have never been tested successfully in that regard. (From FAS: "Since only early IOT&E of SM-2 Block IV was conducted to support its LRIP decision, its capability was never fully determined (capability was not demonstrated against ASCM threat representative, maneuvering targets nor against low altitude, low Doppler targets).")  It is obvious the Sea Sparrow system was created to fill a gap.  Regardless, this is horribly off my point.
 
Yes SS was created to fill a gap, it was created to provide a basic anti-missile capability for ships that needed a point defense (carriers, command ships, battleships) or were incapable of mounting something longer ranged and more effective. If it was so necessary for ships to have it, then why did the the Aegis ships or for that matter any of the dedicated AAW cruisers lack it until the quad pack ESSMs were developed? Which I suspect has a lot more to do with the larger number of missles that can be carried and their usefulness for not having to waste a long ranged missile against a short ranged threat. Aegis is in fact quite capable against low level-high speed threats. Supersonic seaskimmers have been arround for at least 15-20 years.
 
Putting it mildly, it IS dramatic that a terminal defense system (which is EXACTLY what it is against a low-altitude/hi-speed ASCM) would be pulled off automatic to target surface 'bogies'. The best analogy  to my original assertion is the old Springfield rifle (figure that one out for yourself).
 
Yeah, because what harm could a small boat packed with explosives cause? It's not like any of the US's ships have ever been attacked by those?
 
You still seem to be missing out on the point that a single ship, less capable than an Arleigh Burke being attacked simultaniously by ASMs and explosive laiden boats is going to be in deep trouble, regardless of what the SS are used for. While an AB or better is going to have way more than enough missiles to withstand anything short of an all out attack involving dozens of boats and missiles.

Besides what kind of ship exactly is it you think is going to be rendered vunlerable by this? Basically the only ships in the US that depend on SS for their defense are Carriers and command ships and it's not like they're ever deployed without at least a couple of Aegis ships.
 
I'll confess I have no clue what your point with the Springfield rifle is, though I sure like Pizza.

It is incredible to me that the lessons of the Stark & Sheffield are still hollow.
 
I thought the lesson of the Stark was "Don't turn off all your defenses" and "Pay attention to the surrounding environment in a potentially hostile area"? After all it's not like they actually made any attempt to stop the missiles that hit them. They barely even noticed they were under attack until just before the missiles hit. In fact IIRC, they had the Phalanx in standby mode because they didn't want it suddenly locking on to a helicopter or passing plane and blowing it out of the air. Which wouldn't really have made them more likely to have been leaving a SS system on automatic, assuming their ship had even been equiped with one, which none of the OHPs ever were. Strange that, given ho
 
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nyetneinnon       10/4/2008 3:36:02 AM
Hmmmm, I'm not in the Navy, but maybe these new software-updated quad-packed Sparrows can engage both a surface target manually, while also an aerial target automatically, simultaneously?  I mean, how many targets can an Aegis track and target at the same time?  Just one?  Just the point that such a single-mode seeking missile can hit supersonic targets or 7 foot dingy's 10 miles away, is rather impressive.
 
Although, in the sub-7km range, perhaps it's a lot more economical to simply engage hypothetical speed boats with a RIM/RAM block 1 (HAS)?
 
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benellim4       3/1/2009 1:38:33 PM
I wasn't writing of weapons, but rather of tactics.
-Unfortunately for your this article is solely about weapons, and your analysis of tactics if flawed.

 

Tactically, it is sheer stupidity to switch to manual your primary long-range defensive system against hi-speed ASMs just to target small boats.
-SeaSparrow is hardly long-range. Not to mention, you fail to include something very important in your discussion: the tactical environment. If all you are facing is small boats then using every weapon at your disposal to survive is not sheer stupidity. Not using every available weapon is sheer stupidity. What this technology offers is something every Tactical Action Officer wants: more options.

 

Worse: Letting all your enemies know about it.
-Letting them know what? That they can die in yet another way? Letting them know the system switches to manual? What this article doesn't advertise is how fast it can be switched back. Want to guess how fast that switch is?

 

The USN needs some fresh, new leadership.  But that's nothing new.
-What the USN needs is people who understand naval warfare, not some idiot behind a keyboard with access to the Internet, who gets his knowledge from wiki.

Give me a break.  I mis-wrote about 'primary long-range defensive' weapon relative to the Sparrow.  To assert such is plain stupid.
 The SMs were never intended for low-altitude terminal defense and, to the best of my knowledge, have never been tested successfully in that regard. 
-Low altitude? Ever hear of something called the SM-2 Block III? I'm not sure what your definition of terminal is, because it is not a standard Navy definition when describing air defense. The ESSM and the SM-2 Block IIIB are probably the best in the world when it comes to shooting down low altitude targets. Range, is largely a matter of how long it takes them to "flop over" as Herald would say.

(From FAS: "Since only early IOT&E of SM-2 Block IV was conducted to support its LRIP decision, its capability was never fully determined (capability was not demonstrated against ASCM threat representative, maneuvering targets nor against low altitude, low Doppler targets).") 
-The SM-2 Block IV and IVA were primarily to be ballistic missile interceptors, something now called Sea Based Terminal. 

It is obvious the Sea Sparrow system was created to fill a gap.  Regardless, this is horribly off my point.
-Sea Sparrow was designed to give ships a point defense against air threats. The first Sea Sparrow missile system onboard ships makes this abundantly clear, the Basic Point Defense Missile System.
 
Putting it mildly, it IS dramatic that a terminal defense system (which is EXACTLY what it is against a low-altitude/hi-speed ASCM) would be pulled off automatic to target surface 'bogies'. The best analogy  to my original assertion is the old Springfield rifle (figure that one out for yourself).
-If it is being pulled off inbound ASCMs who is doing it? The operator, after all the article does say that it is in manual mode. So we have to rely on the operator to determine that a small boat with a max speed of ~40 knots is not as critical as hitting the Mach 1 missile. I'm comfortable with that. I think our people are smart enough to know how to employ a new capability properly, even if you don't. As for your Springfield rifle, I have no idea what you're talking about, and I would guess neither does 90% of the rest of the world.
 
It is incredible to me that the lessons of the Stark & Sheffield are still hollow.
-It is incredible to me how you make such large assertions when you are obviously very ignorant of the subject matter. 
 
 
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