I’ll leave it to URR to discuss the critical importance of fire support from naval platforms in support of amphibious operations, and our current lack of gun tubes to support that role.
Often just as important as volume of fires is the precision of fires. The Israeli Defense Forces have a reputation worthy of respect, especially their Air Force and Army. Their Navy is not nearly as visible, but has consistently operated in support of the Army in its efforts ashore. Consider the Gaza Strip.
Gaza has been effectively blockaded now for quite some time. And that is enforced by the Israeli Navy.
It doesn’t take an Alfred Thayer Mahan to see that Gaza’s exposed shoreline also means Israeli ships can be used to engage targets inside Gaza, without inviting counterfire inside Israel. They can also use their electro optical sensor suites to conduct reconnaissance inside Gaza.
The relatively small area that the Israeli Navy operates in means they can profitably deploy numbers of small patrol craft to operate off Gaza. One such craft is the Super Dvora III patrol boat.
The main battery on the Super Dvora III is usually a 25mm autocannon on a Typhoon mount, which is comparable to our own Navy’s Mk38Mod2 stabilized, remotely controlled mount. But the Israelis have also taken to using the Typhoon mount to carry a few Spike-ER guided missiles.
The Spike is really a family of guided anti-tank missiles, ranging from a very small man portable missile, to a quite large missile with a range of up to 16 miles. The Spike-ER mounted on these boats is in the middle, with a range of about 5 miles. The nifty thing about Spike-ER is that it is guided by a thin fiber optic cable, allowing the shooter to actually see what the missile seeker sees, and fine tune the aiming all the way to point of impact.
This is actually a somewhat more complex engagement than you might first think. It’s unlikely the patrol boat acquired the target itself. A better guess would be that an unarmed drone operating overhead found the target, and either the drone controller sent the coordinates to the boat, or the feed from the drone was directly taken aboard the boat.
Our Navy currently uses either a 5” gun or airpower for fire support from the sea. And while Spike probably isn’t the answer we need to be looking at for precision engagement of point targets ashore, we definitely need to start thinking about what we do want, and how to quickly and cheaply achieve that.