The Rolling Airframe Missile is a point defense weapon developed jointly by the US and Germany to provide close-in defense to surface ships against anti-ship cruise missiles.

By taking the body of a Sidewinder missile, and combining it with the seeker system of the Stinger missile, development costs were kept to a minimum. The launcher is cued to the target by the ships radar, but the missile is a fire-and-forget system. A passive radio frequency seeker detects the anti-ship missile’s seeker radar or radar altimeter, and directs the RAM to the general vicinity of the target. As the RAM approaches, its passive infrared seeker head locks on and guides the missile to impact. ┬áThe RAM has a couple advantages over the older Phalanx Mk15 CIWS. It has a significantly longer range than the CIWS, and it has a 21 round launcher, giving it more engagements before reloading than the CIWS. There is also an 11-round launcher based on the radar and mount of the Phalanx in development.

The latest versions of the RAM can engage helicopters, aircraft, and surface targets. The last bit, surface targets, is becoming increasingly important, as the Navy is very concerned about ships being swarmed by small boats.


5 thoughts on “RAM”

  1. Individual ship Anti-missile/AAA/small-craft defense has been woefully neglected for years because of the belief that the Task Force long-range “defense-in-depth” would more than suffice for a blue-water Navy by eliminating the launch platforms well beyond the range of Task-Force vulnerability by things like the F-14/Phoenix combo and Ageis systems. If that were ever true (and I contend it wasn’t) that myth has been exploded by the demise of the F-14 and the brown-water littoral msn which vastly shortens response time and puts major ships in lethal range of shore-based and short range shallow-draft craft. One would have thought the Falklands campaign would have been a wake-up call, but the Navy has been slow to react. I’ve been away for too long, but I believe that they are STILL basing ship defenses against aircraft using only a two-ship attack formation as the standard metric for planning & development purposes. The possibility of larger formation aircraft attacks/individual vessel or swarming missile attacks seems to have been discounted for far too long. This seems an improvement, but is hardly an adequate solution.

  2. Well, an Aegis class ship like a Tico or a Burke doesn’t really have to worry about being swarmed by ASMs.

    The Sea Sparrow and RAM were originally designed to pick off ‘leakers’ that made it through the wall of Tomcats/Phoenix, and then the wall of Standard missiles from the Aegis boats.

    But RAM is pretty handy in that it has a very quick response and is therefore useful against a close threat such as in the littorals.

    But small boats are surprisingly tough targets, and there are only so many effective mounts to attack them. You can blast away at one all day with a .50cal and maybe not even hit it.

  3. I guess that RAM will be handy against small boats when wx prevents anti-ship helo
    usage. And helos aren’t always near enough to provide a quick enough response time if your conducting ops close to shore. Although hasn’t “official” policy/SOP been that helos are supposed to be the answer–or at least Plan A–in response to the small craft “cigarette-boat-with-SSMs” threat?

  4. Well, helos are really handy. And I think they SHOULD be the first line of defense. But a layered defense is always a good idea.

    BTW, if the WX is bad enough to ground a helo, small craft are gonna have their own problems, aren’t they?

  5. Maybe. I put to sea from Chesapeake Bay when we couldn’t get the helo from Oceana to our flight deck on Sylvania, yet we encountered numerous smaller craft east of the Virginia Capes. You can have calm, but unflyable weather. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

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