NLOS-LS Missile Fail Could Impact Navy’s LCS

The failure of the Army’s Non Line-of-Sight-Launch System (NLOS-LS) Precision Attack Missile (PAM) to hit its intended targets in a recent series of live fire tests might not just be an Army problem. See, the NLOS-PAM system, also called “missiles-in-a-box,” is also supposed to outfit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), giving the ships a much needed long-range strike weapon.

The NLOS-LS was to substitute for the LCS’ lack of vertical launch system cells – which can handle anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land attack missiles – carried on larger surface ships, if in a smaller package. The only weapon the LCS currently carries is a single 57mm rapid fire cannon that can range out to nine miles.

The missiles-in-a-box for LCS were to come in two versions, the PAM, with a range of around 40 miles, and a Loitering Attack Missile, that when fully developed was to have nearly a 124 mile range. The missiles would give the LCS some of the much needed firepower it currently lacks, and when coupled with ship launched aerial drones, an over the horizon strike capability.

In a mostly favorable white paper on the LCS, Martin Murphy, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, pointed to the LCS’ lack of organic fires as a serious shortcoming. If the missiles don’t come on line anytime soon, the LCS’ operational effectiveness could be negatively impacted.

As we reported last month, during live fire tests in late January and early February, the NLOS-PAM missed its target four out of six times. Senior Army leaders are pretty fed up with the costly missile system (each missile costs roughly $466,000), according to Army sources, and are considering cheaper solutions.

If the Army decides to pass on NLOS-LS, where does that leave the Navy and LCS? Can the LCS hull accommodate the larger VLS cells and what would the ship have to give up to fit them?

— Greg

  • ripr

    Was not this PAM seeker the technology for one of the two SDB II competitors?
    So this may impact the USAF also.
    A single round costs $466,000 each? Is this solely the missile (i.e., the part that flys out of the container)? Is there a more detailed breakout of costs for the system components available anywhere?
    Somebody got a cost comparison to a M777 using a M982 Excalibur Guided Projectile?

    • ohwilleke

      An M982 Excalibur Guided Projectile costs about $85,000.

  • Robjack01

    Can the MLRS or HiMars system be incorporated into the LCS as a mission package or hardwired into hull? The GPS guided round has 70 km range, and the ATACMS can reach out to 300 km. The heavier punch of these artillery rockest makes more sense for naval gunfire support to me than large anti-tank missiles anyway.

  • Moose

    You could park an MLRS or HiMars on the deck, but that’s about years. It would take far longer to produce a hardwired, naval MLRS system than to fix NLOS’s problems.

    The GD/Austal LCS has enough room to fit a small full VLS, LM’s has enough room for a small ESSM-only VLS. But the only offensive missiles in the USN inventory which fit into VLS are Tomahawk and ASROC. Harpoon won’t fit, they still use proprietary canisters, but in a pinch you could weld a couple to the flight deck. Thanks for pointing out that the USN needs a new VLS-compatible ASCM, though.

    The Affordable Weapon is right-sized for LCS and could make it a bit more lethal, nut nobody seems to want to pull the trigger on it,

    • Moose

      That first sentence should read “that’s about it for years”

  • FormerDirtDart

    I thought the Loitering Attack Missile variant was cancelled around 5 years ago, due to spiraling costs, and target acquisition problems.

  • STemplar

    How about get rid of the 57mm gun in favor of Harpoons. Seems like they would be the more important integrated system. One of the mission packages was supposed to have a 30 or 35mm gun l thought? Seems like slapping modules with guns, or typhoon 20mm mounts on the deck in a couple few spots would be easier.

  • CJ-

    ….seriously, LCS has only a deck gun? Holy Retard Batman!

  • Wildcard

    Don’t Harpoons cost around USD$700,000?
    Brimstone missiles cost approximately USD$300,000.00. In an age where Siderwinder A2A missiles are adapted to hit ground targets, why not adapt the Brimstone for use on water. Its ability to be ripple fired against multiple targets up to 7 miles out seems perfect for a craft that’s supposed to counter swarms of small fast attack craft. Same missile could even hit targets on the coast.
    Air defence on minimum real estate, Mistral Tetral should cover it. I don’t think there is a shortage of weapons that could be utilised on the LCS… oh wait these weapons need to be completely American, have an associated cost overrun and cost far more than the targets they are designed to destroy.
    If they really want to pour money into the NLOS-LS system, fine but at least kit out the LCS with what is available until that system comes online.

    • ohwilleke

      Hellfire missiles for the helicopter would be about $100,000 each.

      • Wildcard

        I don’t doubt that helicopters/UCAVs have important roles to play in countering ‘swarms’ and anti sub warfare. But by the logic that some have expressed would you really have needed to spend upwards of USD$600 million for a mobile heli-pad?

  • DennisBuller

    If this system is so important to this ship, why was it not designed in?
    Adding systems to a ship is much harder than designing them in from the beginning…..
    How much competence does it take to figure out what basic systems are needed for a ship?
    This seems to be a lack of foresight by the Navy and the Builders….

    • Will

      NLOS-PAM is important to the LCS for some but not all of it’s missions. Not useful for ASW, for example. They decided that the only weapon they would always want is the Bofors 57 mm for self defense. All other weapons are modular so they can be added or removed according to mission & space available. Also easier to add new systems when they become available.

  • CJ-

    Shows you how fucked up the US military acquisition is. Why exactly are they reinventing the wheel? Take the GMLRS rocket and cut it to 1/2-size. Stick it in the NLOS box. DONE. Missile-in-a-box is not a radical concept, it's an old idea that they should be able to pull together in a jippy. Instead even something as simple as this a military acquisition clusterfuck.

  • Wildcard

    Is General Dynamics LCS still in the game?
    RIM 116 HAS missiles are supposed to be used on both the LM and GD LCS’ right?

    • Shipbuilder

      The GD/Austal version is still in play. GD severed their relationship with Austal in order to bid for the second round of ships, hoping to build them in Bath.

    • The General Dynamics LCS was superior in design but Lockheed Martin bid lower (though their cost is greater now due to “accidental” underbidding) It was a tri-hull, making it in all likelihood faster than the Lockheed design but it isn’t know or released, all classified, but in the civilian sector, tri-hulls are faster.

  • WillyPete

    Couldn’t they just buy something like the Israeli Spike ER (or any equivalent system) off the rack, to replace this thing?

  • STemplar

    I’m sure they will solve NLOS’s issues as well. Everyone focuses on the fast boat thing with Iran in the Persian Gulf as the benchmark for whether the class is worthwhile. I still say at the point Iran makes any stupid moves, we will cluster bomb the @#$% out of every Iranian port up and down the Persian Gulf. It will be a quick one sided fight.

    From what I’ve read the ASW package just might be very good, and we certainly need it.

  • Ranger-12

    So let’s get off out fat butts and find out what the problem is and fix it. that is all it takes. now that we have that problem solved when will the next test firing be.

  • William Culver

    The NLOS PAM missile is a flawed concept, which was originally designed to use automatic optical pattern recognition for target acquisition, identification and homing is a failure against ground targets in a cluttered environment. It would work somewwhat better at targets in the ocean. Fiber guided missiles, that pay out a very thin optical fiber from a spool on the fiber allow a human operator to find, identify and decide at which point to hit the target. They are very reliable and have been available for twenty years and are used by several countries. see: EFOGM and SPIKE -LR

  • roland

    This should come in the ordered packagew/o the additional cost.