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Speedy Sparrows Sink Suicide Boats
by James Dunnigan
October 15, 2008

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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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