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Navy Tests System that Targets Threats Beyond Radar Envelope

by Kris Osborn on October 11, 2013

110706-N-UO379-255The Navy and Lockheed Martin recently tested an airborne-relay sensor and networking technology that allows ships to locate and destroy threats and targets that would otherwise be beyond the radar horizon, service and industry officials said.

Called the Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, the August test involved the firing of a Standard Missile 6, or SM-6, from the USS Chancellorsville, a Navy cruiser.

An airborne sensor identifies a target beyond the horizon and networks that information into the ship’s fire control system, allowing the ship’s radar to track and destroy targets at much greater distances, Navy and Lockheed officials said.

“Initial track detections are made by the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft and are forwarded over our CEC (cooperative engagement capability) network,” a Navy official said. “The ‘from the sea’ kill chain aspect of NIFC-CA results in an SM-6 missile being launched from an Aegis ship at a contact that is located over the traditional radar horizon.”

Therefore, should things continue to develop with NIFC-CA, the technology brings the possibility of greatly extending the protective envelope surrounding ships at sea.

“Being able to take on a target that is beyond a ship’s radar horizon is very significant. That is a capability that ships did not have before,” said Jim Sheridan, a Lockheed official.

Overall, the Navy plans to expand the number of ships with Aegis Radar capability as well as continue to improve the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapons system software. The Aegis BMW weapons system software is configured in increments, ranging from Aegis BMD 3.6 to 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1.

There are currently 22 Navy cruisers and 62 Navy destroyers equipped with Aegis technology, Navy officials said. Of these ships, five cruisers and 28 destroyers are currently capable of Ballistic Missile Defense. At the same time, the Navy plans to continue to upgrade much of its fleet with Aegis BMD weapons system 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1, service officials said.

The Navy plans to have two cruisers and seven destroyers equipped with Aegis BMD 4.0, numbers which may very well grow larger, service officials indicated. At the same time, six of the Navy’s original destroyers will receive BMD 5.0.

“Our newer destroyers will all be equipped with BMD 5.0 and follow-on variants such as 5.1. That includes modernizing all destroyers with hull numbers 79 — 112 to have this capability and building all new destroyers, beginning with hull number 113 from ‘the keel up’ with this level of capability,” a Navy official said.

Both BMD 5.0 and BMD 5.1 have the technology to enable a multi-mission signal processor which allows ships to conduct air defense missions and ballistic missile defense missions concurrently.

“The Aegis Multi-mission Signal Processor (MMSP) is a piece of equipment which combines a BMD Signal Processor and an advanced SPY radar signal processor in a single cabinet. BMD 5.0 and follow-on variants will use the MMSP. This piece of equipment, among other things, uses synthetic processing to help the ship discriminate lethal objects from the debris cloud that accompanies a ballistic missile en route to its target,” Navy officials said.

The Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones is currently configured with Aegis BMD 5.0; the ship is slated for additional air defense testing at the Pacific Missile Test Facility, Hawaii.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

BlackOwl18E October 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Seems like the Navy is already trying to counter carrier killing ballistic missiles from China.


FormerDirtDart October 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Actually, this seems more to counter low altitude threats, like anti-ship cruise missiles.


BlackOwl18E October 12, 2013 at 12:14 am

Yeah, you're probably right.


Rest Pal October 11, 2013 at 10:50 pm

not gonna work.

the US is already behind Russia and China in beyond radar range targeting for use by anti-ship cruise (or ballistic) missiles.


PolicyWonk October 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

The easiest way to counter ASBM's is to tell the ChiComs the same thing the Russians told us when the notion of "global strike" (conventionally-armed ICBM's) was floated:

"Since we can't tell the difference between the conventionally armed ICBM's and the nuclear-armed ICBM's - we're going to assume its the latter case and launch on warning…".

That put an instantaneous end to that idea. And I'd bet the Chinese would probably react the same way.


citanon October 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Except the Chinese ASBMs are not ICBM's and the differences in the trajecory tracks are obvious…..


blight_ October 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Perhaps he meant to say "the difference between BM's with conventional vs nuclear payload"?


Citanon October 14, 2013 at 1:16 am

No. I meant exactly what I wrote. An ICBM has a very different trajectory track and velocity than a short range or medium range ballistic missile, which is what the Chinese ASBMs are. The US cannot plausibly make such a claim.

blight_ October 11, 2013 at 7:16 pm

"LCS, do you see anything bro?"

"Hang on. Drones, do you see anything bro?"


EW3 October 11, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Have always thought the best mission for the LCS was as a persistent electronics sensor. Perhaps if they added an illuminator radar source, it could be used to direct SM1/SM2 and other SARH missiles. This way you would not have to rely on the SM6 which is likely much more costly,


EW3 October 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Need to correct my last, it's been a few years since I looked at the SM6 design. As it's certainly has a better seeker mechanism and it's based on the SM2 it's probably a better choice then the SM1/SM2.
Still the LCS can provide target data to the Aegis class ships to they can launch the SM6 missiles.


PolicyWonk October 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Lamentably, the LCS has no such functionality, and nor are they planned to have any such capability. And considering their sea-frames are only built to the lowest navy standard (i.e. level-1), they aren't even built to take the same kind of punishment that is given to a common fleet oiler.


blight_ October 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm

The Navy's been saying that the LCS was re-engineered late in the design stage to a higher standard because of those complaints, raising the cost of the platform. I have no way of knowing if that was true or not…


amerena October 13, 2013 at 7:30 am

You're right. The former project of LCS Lookheed doesn't admit this performances. However, nowadays Austal is working hard in the news LCS in oder to create the next class of trimarans for the modern warfare.

There has been several problems with the designing process because the ship is completely new and there is no Know-How. See the info below:

EW3 October 13, 2013 at 12:05 am

The USN has always had "high risk" vessels. Think PT boats.
The DE/FF I served on would have devastated by an SS-N-10 missile, we were aluminum from the O1 level up. Not all ships can survive every threat. We had a feature on oru jammer that was called blip enhance. Look it up.
But they do have surface and air-search radar. If they are 50 miles from the carrier, they provide a useful function as far as protecting the carrier. Add in their choppers we can provide detection out to 80 miles from the carrier at sea level.


LukeB October 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

The Chinese will have the blueprints next week. They have spy’s everywhere.


Anonymous October 14, 2013 at 2:07 pm

And so does America. So what?


Mitch S. October 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Looks like a new major conflict is brewing between two of the world's superpowers:
The US Navy and the US Air Force.
As the Navy's BM defense capability grows the Air Force has to see it as a threat.


tmb2 October 12, 2013 at 12:26 am

If such a conflict exists, it's certainly not new.


Mitch S. October 12, 2013 at 12:40 am

I'll go with your correction.
How about "a simmering conflict is set to explode"


Bernard October 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

True, however an ASBM can be nuclear, then again so can a cruise missile.


citanon October 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Exactly. And so can a SRBM or a MRBM. In fact, so can a mortar! Russia's argument works because of the foundational position of ICBMs in the strategic nuclear arsenal. It will not work for any other type of missile.


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