Boeing’s New Missile for Littoral Combat Ships

Last week we showed you this photo I took of a mysterious missile that Boeing had on display at the Surface Navy Association’s annual convention just outside of DC.

I had never seen, or heard of, this missile before and no one at Boeing’s booth could talk about the weapon. Well, a spokeswoman with Boeing’s Phantom Works division just emailed me to explain that the Joint Air-Breathing Multi-Role Missile (JABMM) is being designed for use by the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Remember, the sea service replaced the canceled Non-Line of Sight missile system as one of the LCS’ primary weapons with Raytheon’s tiny Griffin missile — a munition that was originally designed as a smaller alternative to Hellfire antitank missiles for use by UAVs. Well, the JABMM is a purpose-built weapon designed to take out fast moving enemy ships, aircraft and possibly even incoming missiles, explains Phantom Works spokeswoman Deborah VanNierop in the following email:

The JABMM or Joint Air Breathing Multi-Role Missile is a surface engagement weapon enlisting air breathing propulsion capabilities for greater range  than some current solid rocket propelled missiles. It could be used as an air interceptor or surface engagement weapon against fast moving vessels.

The JABMM is designed to fit into deck mounted canisters aboard U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for ease of ship integration.

The JABMM would be launched out of its canister by a solid rocket booster and then at take over speed the turbo-jet air breathing engine would take over.

The JABMM is currently a conceptual design.

  • zardinuk

    This is genius. A mini-tomahawk for the LCS. What’s the range????

    • blight

      If it’s long range then it eats into payload. ERGM dropped 72 DPICMs or an 8 pound unitary.

  • moose


    • Bill

      Major plus is that it drops the need for numerous modules and the “return and refit” conundrum.

  • JRL

    Ought’a work fine so long as the LCS limits itself to shooting at people who can’t shoot back…

    • Jim37F

      Can’t the same be said for other surface combatants? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t our current CG’s, DDG’s, and FFG’s have little to no armor?

      • CDN_Sailor

        If it comes down to armour in modern naval combat - you’ve already screwed up.

        • JRL

          I’m not sure how survivable the more traditional naval combatants are in there “expected combat environment” but this is what the latest DOT&E report has to say about the LCS:

          “• LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat
          environment. This assessment is based primarily on a
          review of LCS design requirements, which do not require the
          inclusion of the survivability features necessary to conduct
          sustained operations in its expected combat environment. ”

          BTW, when did armor and survivability become synonymous? There’s more to survivability than just hunkering down in your shell like an armidillo…

          • blight

            Proper damage control techniques and good design can compensate for poor armoring. Look at the USS Stark, which probably came closer than the Cole to sinking. The Stark was smaller, took an unlucky hit near the damage control center as well. Alternatively, we need to study what happened to the Royal Navy in the Falklands: they took actual losses. What went right, and what went wrong? What can be attributed to damage control, and what can be attributed to structural design?

          • JRL

            EDIT: subst “their” for “there”.

            Not to admins: Would it really hurt to allow a five-ten minute EDIT window for typos, etc?

          • FormerDirtDart

            You are free to edit comments until someone replies to them, then they are locked.

          • JRL

            I didn’t know that. Thanks!

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        Just my 50 Eurocents worth, but the decline in armoring on surface combatants might have a connection with the rise to prominence of the antiship missile.

        While it is possible to armor a large warship to withstand (in the sense of staying in the fight as an effective unit) a couple of 12″ shell hits, the same cannot be said for a couple of KH-22’s (AS-4 Kitchen).

        One might cautiously predict a reversal of this trend, since the main threat to large warships today is not so much Tu-22’s with 1-ton-warheaded supersonic antiship missiles, but more in the line of a .50 cal. , an RPG or an ATGM.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • joshua

    wow that looks soo cool

  • ziv

    Anything that outguns/outranges the Griffin would be welcome. The LCS aren’t supposed to be gun-fighters, but being essentially unarmed (other than an impressive albeit limited 57mm) for the first 3 or 4 years of their development will take years to live down.

    • Mastro

      Yeah- the Griffen looked useful for taking out Somali pirates- and - er that’s it.

      This looks a lot better- if it doesn’t balloon like most of these programs.

  • Lance

    Strange I thought the older ALCM missile would go but this is to replace the Tomahawk missile looks cool though.

  • @ChrisCicc

    Didn’t Boeing say they have a missile “in production”? If this is that missile, then this statement directly contradicts that.

    • Black Owl

      Or it could be JAGM that they were talking about.

  • David

    Can someone tell me why they aren’t going with the proven Mk 41 VLS tubes? Both LCS builders said that their ships can accomodate 16 (I think) of them. Is it to save costs or is there a capability gap to be filled?

    • moose

      Adding Mk 41 VLS will eat into the space for mission modules, especially on the Lockheed design.

    • Belesari

      Also the VLS are heavy and probably more than is needed. The VLS equiped ships are export designs that actucally have a hell of alot of firepower. Of course they also dont have the super fast speed demand which is telling.

      • STemplar

        Plus one, I believe the Independence version can’t use the full length VLS cells. However, the export versions offered by both ship builders did have the regular and shortened VLS cells as a more conventionally armed ship.

  • Tim

    We keep hearing that the LCS has not been equipped with weapons other than the 5″ gun. But can someone explain what it is that looks peculiarly like 2 VLS pads just right behind the gun mount?…

    • ziv

      It is something of a sore subject, but the LCS class only carry a 57mm gun. Not a 76mm and most assuredly not a 5″ gun. If they are carrying the surface warfare module they are apparently planning to carry an additional 2 30mm guns, but no large caliber weapons.

    • blight

      Could be a hatch to move bulk supplies.

      Wikipedia (once SOPA day is over) has this to say about the Independence class.

      “With 11,000 cubic metres (390,000 cu ft) of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted.”

      However, the reference links are 404ed; so….

    • Guest

      That was where the N-LOS missles were supposed to go before they got cancelled.

      • blight


  • Hunter78

    It looks like a modern dirigible.

  • Shail

    Do we even have rough physical dimensions of this thing?
    I’m curious just what exactly Boeing is implying in “It could be used as an air interceptor…”
    Unless they mean targetting something like maritime helicopters, the shape, and probably thrust, of this thing doesn’t show a highly maneuverable missile capable of going against fast jets. And as an airbreather, unless it’s very supersonic/hypersonic, it probably lacks a good thrust:weight ratio to get to any really effective altitude. But against helos that barely scratch 200mph no higher than ~20,000 feet, yeah, it’ll probably do surface-to-air.

    It does sound promising, but let’s not get our hopes up only to see the F-35 equivalent in missile programs…
    Lockheed Martin never should’ve given up on refining POLAR (a naval MLRS), as with the new wings on the G-MLRS+, its range would be very capable, and multi target ability with these newest trimode seeker systems would give any ship credible firepower.

  • DarkAngel

    Should try out the proto types for effect on the Iranians….

  • Rocketscientist27

    definately looks subsonic cruise from the nose shape and choice of a turbojet rather than scram/ramjet, the chined body hints at stealth, but the the cruciform tail throws that stealth away. Assume a NACA type intake for the tubojet, will limit incidence for good intake pressure recovery so no high g manoeuvres. It looks like a harpoon replacement, or if it smaller a similar capability to the UK FASGW rather than tomahawk, think range more like 50km than 1500Km. I dont see something looking like this doing surface to air?? I think the marketing dept is out of control.

    • B_Smitty

      The nose shape doesn’t exactly scream “stealth” either. The size of the nose also suggests it’s a fairly small munition. My guess is it’s sized to carry the JAGM/SDB II tri-mode seeker. Perhaps it’s just a Hellfire/JAGM-class weapon with a turbojet for greater range. Anti-air would be limited to low-performance targets (UAVs, Helos).

      The LCI/MALI concept seems like a better starting point to me, unless they just wanted a very small munition.

  • foolsandtheirmoney

    Boeing has a poster to sell. BAE Systems/Rafael has the battle-proven Spike series of missiles, including the Spike-ER (8 Km range) and Spoke NLOS (25 Km range), available today. Why in the world isn’t the US Navy putting these weapons on the LCS?

  • howard

    well the way i see this one is that it’s part of a multi layered defense for naval forces. send out a fleet of them to ‘loiter’ around and check for non-ours at greater than horizon distances without the need to have planes in the air.
    it could surveillance or use weapons as needed.

    this coincides with the multiness of the role they mentioned;
    ‘…Well, the JABMM is a purpose-built weapon designed to take out fast moving enemy ships, aircraft and possibly even incoming missiles….’
    ‘…for greater range than some current solid rocket propelled missiles….’

    range + multi use. yet another solution to the multi problems
    at sea.

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