Video above: How fast can the United States close the hypersonic divide with Russia and China?
By Kris Osborn – President and Editor-in-Chief, Warrior Maven
The Navy is working intensively to better prepare for China’s fast-evolving ballistic missiles which are not only increasing in number but improving their guidance systems, maneuverability and attack ranges.
The concern was raised by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Texas, during a House Appropriations Committee, Defense, which questioned Navy leaders on current plans to bolster ballistic missile defenses in light of the Chinese threat in the Pacific.
Chinese cruise missile threat
“The range of Chinese cruise missiles is expected to increase significantly to reach Guam in 2025. This expanded range poses great challenges for our position in the Pacific. If the Navy was unable to defend against potential attacks, we would have to withdraw troops from the area,” Rogers told Navy leaders.
When it comes to Chinese threats, there are both short-term and long-term concerns, given that China’s already existing DF-26 “carrier killer” missile can achieve ranges of 2,000 miles. The precise guidance systems for these weapons may not be known, and their potential ability to track and hit moving targets is likely to be of great importance to the threat equation posed to the Navy. . Furthermore, as Rogers quoted, various projections anticipate an aggressive pace of modernization of Chinese weapons, which is evident in Pentagon and Congressional reports on China.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told Rogers and other members of the subcommittee that the service was taking specific steps to address this issue, citing advancements in arming the DDG Flight III Arleigh-class destroyers. Burke. These ships are designed with a revolutionary AN/SPY-1 radar system, 35 times more sensitive and powerful than existing radars. Radar, now built into Navy ships, can detect threatening objects half the size at twice the distance, technology that dramatically changes the equation for ship commanders hoping to find and intercept or destroy incoming enemy attacks. .
“Flight III can do ballistic missiles and air defense at the same time. We continue to invest in Flight III as we transition to DDGX,” said Del Toro.
Video above: A next-generation destroyer called DDG(X) is designed to sail alongside existing DDG 51 destroyers
China’s Carrier-Killer missiles have garnered a lot of attention, but there’s a lot to be said for the substantial progress the Navy has made in recent years to bolster its layered ship defense infrastructure. Some have predicted that these Chinese weapons will force the US Navy to operate its carriers up to 2,000 miles offshore, making it difficult to project power ashore without substantial aerial tanker support.
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However, in recent years, Navy leaders have also made it clear that the service will project power and operate its carriers where needed in the years to come. Although many details are likely unavailable for security reasons, Navy weapons developers and industry partners have spoken at length about the massive upgrade to the ship’s defense infrastructure in layers and technological capacity. Ship defense is thought of in terms of “tiers” or “layers”, which means that certain sensors, radar systems and interceptors are designed to detect and destroy incoming long-range threats such as ballistic missiles.
For these short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missile threats, the Navy operates its Aegis Combat System in coordination with its SM-3 interceptor to develop a radar track on an incoming weapon and detonate it from the sky with a guided interceptor. Mid-level defenses involve weapons such as the SM-6, which can use dual-mode seekers to ping forward from the missile itself and adjust to destroy one incoming moving target from more near. On the kinetic side, there is a wide range of additional interceptors developed for medium and short range defenses to destroy enemy drones, helicopters and even small attack boats that are approaching quickly. These weapons include the SeaRAM, Rolling Airframe Missile, and the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II which has a sea-skimming intercept mode to track and destroy approaching cruise missiles.
For the closest threats, the Navy operates its now-enhanced Close in Weapons System (CWIS) which uses an area weapon called Phalanx to fire hundreds of projectiles per second to destroy approach surface threats such as small boats as well as incoming air threats. like drones or missiles.
All of these types of ship defenses are increasingly being networked by the Navy, in part through its Block 10 Aegis combat system which integrates ballistic missile defense and air and cruise missile defense on a single system. More recently, the Navy is rapidly adding to its fleet a complete, elaborate, scale “laser” weapon system, less expensive weapons that not only move silently at the speed of light, but cost less and can be scaled to disrupt, damage, or entirely incinerate an incoming target.
However, ship defenses such as this, while increasingly layered, robust and networked, are now being rapidly reinforced by an increasing range of so-called non-kinetic ship defenses of equal or even defensive value. superior. For example, electronic warfare technologies such as the Navy’s SEWIP Block III (Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program) enhanced technology can detect and “jam” the electronic guidance systems of incoming precision weapons to divert them from their course or disable.
Northrop Grumman’s Block III SEWIP, for example, merges IO – or information operations – with EW applications to identify and eliminate conflicts in relevant areas of the spectrum and synthesize threat data and information on a recognized enemy “line of bearing” with actual EW broadcasts that can attack or disable enemy threats.
Given this, there is also reason to recognize that the Navy’s sophisticated and improved naval defenses could also be evolving at an alarming rate, a phenomenon that weighs heavily on the worrying Chinese threat equation. There are many variables when it comes to these types of threats, as well as many unknowns, and ship-based defenses are of particular importance and value in the Pacific because there are fewer land based locations. from which to operate or fire interceptors.
For this reason, there will likely be ongoing debate and deliberation with regards to improving ship defenses, a key part of which can simply be described as networking. The more multi-domain connectivity is enabled, the greater the ability to see, track, and destroy approaching enemy attacks. For example, the Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air program now deployed by the Navy was a revolutionary innovation a few years ago. The NIFC-CA now arms Navy destroyers with a greatly increased ability to see and destroy approaching enemy weapons, such as anti-ship cruise missiles, from beyond the horizon.
The concept is one of networking, as NIFC-CA connects on-board radar and communication systems with a strategically positioned “air sensor” node to detect “beyond the horizon”. The “node” aerial platform started out as a Hawkeye E2D, but has since proven itself with an F-35 and may integrate additional systems in the future, such as drones. The air node, sensing oncoming threats, sends data to ship-based command and control in position to launch an SM-6 interceptor to destroy the threat from much greater standoff distances.
This means that ship commanders have a lot more time to decide how to counterattack or choose the ship’s optimal defense system. NIFC-CA has been deployed on ships since 2015 and likely continues to be refined. The ability to strike incoming maneuvering threats is a key part of this, given that the SM-6 operates with a “dual-mode” seeker capable of forward radar “pinging” from the ship itself, without the need to rely on a ship. based illuminator. This allows the SM-6 to maneuver in flight to adapt to moving targets and greatly increase the operational envelope of ship defenses.
Kris Osborn is the president of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization and the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.