Air Defense: RAM Rushes To Be Ready


September 12, 2017: Faced with a growing number and variety of anti-ship missiles one of the principle defenses used in Western navies has been getting more numerous and frequent upgrades. This is particularly true of the RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile). Thus in May 2015 a new version (Block 2) of the RIM-116C anti-missile missile was declared ready for service. But even as production of RIM-116C missiles was underway the manufacturer proposed to modify the Block 2 design a bit with some upgrades the recently resulted in the Block 2B version of the 116C missile.

These new upgrades include a more capable seeker (for when the missile is close to the target) and MML (missile-to-missile link) so the 116C will be more capable of handling multiple targets and improved enemy countermeasures. The basic (2015) Block 2 included improvements that allowed RAM to deal with faster anti-ship missiles and the growing use of electronic countermeasures by anti-ship missiles. Block 2 is more maneuverable and because of new software it is also “smarter.” The Block 2B upgrades build on that. The Block 0 (RIM-116A) was introduced in the early 1990s when the United States adopted the system. The Block 1 (RIM-116B) entered service in 2000.

RAM has been wide use since 1992 and is a joint German-American development that began in the late 1970s. RAM is used on ships and so far over 200 launchers and over 4,500 missiles have been produced. Nearly 500 test firing have been carried out, both for training and quality control. Many of the test firings are against high-speed target drones (a type of UAV). In the U.S. Navy RAM is used on nuclear carriers, amphibious carriers and the LCS type frigates. Germany has RAM installed on over twenty warships so far, most of them frigates and destroyers. Seven other nations use RAM as well.

RAM missiles are 127mm in diameter, three meters (9.3 feet) long, and weigh 73.6 kg (162 pounds) each. The terminal guidance system is heat seeking. The 11.3 kg (25 pound) warhead is of the fragmentation type. Max range is nine kilometers. Basically, RAM uses the rocket motor and warhead from the Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the guidance system from the Stinger shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile. The 11 or 21 cell RAM launchers provide flexibility. The RAM missiles cost about a million dollars each and are shipped in a sealed container that is slid into the launcher. Most RAM missiles are fired from a 5.8 ton launcher containing 21 missiles. Since the 1990s the RAM software was upgraded to enable it to attack aircraft, helicopters and cruise missiles.

In 2011 China introduced what appears to be a RAM clone. The HQ-10 is a short-range anti-missile system for its ships. Two models of the HQ-10 have been seen on so far, one with 21 missile launch tubes and one with 18. The HQ-10 missile have a guidance system with a microwave radar and a heat seeker. This makes these missile more difficult to jam. HQ-10 was not officially announced until 2014.


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