So, the other day, @ThinkDefence shared a tweet that took me here:
The surprising move by Libya Dawn that resulted in the conversion of several S-125 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) into surface-to-surface missiles is not the only of its kind in Libya. Indeed, initiated at roughly the same time, Libya Dawn also worked on the conversion of 2K12 SAMs to the surface-to-surface role. The first contraption, seen above, combines an Italian produced Puma 6×6 APC with the launch section of a Soviet designed 2K12 SAM system.
The collapse of Libya into a mishmash of competing factions means that there really isn’t a lot of new weapons being imported beyond perhaps some small arms.
That being the case, the combatants are forced to make do with what they have on hand. There’s not really much of an air war going on, so Surface to Air missile systems are not exactly a priority. But in the old Ghaddafi days, they were, if only because they’d been raided a few times by A-6s, A-7s, and F-111s.
The 2K12, better known in the West as the SA-6 Gainful, was something of a rude surprise to the Israelis when they first faced it in Egyptian hands in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It’s rather dated technology by today’s standards, but still a credible threat.
But again, the factions in Libya don’t really need SAMs. So apparently, they’re using these as unguided surface to surface missiles. As the Onyx Blog notes, they have a poor warhead and fuze for this role, but shooting something is better than nothing.
And it isn’t as if they’re the only ones to use SAMs in a surface to surface role. US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers beginning with DDG-79 USS Oscar Austin don’t carry the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and so rely on their anti-aircraft SM-2 missiles for the anti-surface role.
One program that never came to fruition, sadly, was a recent one involving the SM-2. Earlier blocks of SM-2 missiles have been replaced in service by newer, longer ranged versions of the SM-2, and now also by the SM-6, featuring basically the same airframe and autopilot, but also incorporating the radar seeker from the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the IIR seeker from the AIM-9X. This new production meant a couple thousand earlier SM-2s were surplus to needs. Someone in the Navy or at Raytheon had the bright idea to convert them for land attack use. The SM-4* Land Attack Standard Missile (LASM) program was born.
LASM took a surplus SM-2 and replaced the Semi-Active Radar Homing guidance system with an INS/GPS system. The firing ship would simply input the map coordinates of the target, and launch the missile. The missile could fly a very efficient ballistic or semi-ballistic path to the target, which meant its range would be considerably greater than for the air to air role. While its warhead would be no great shakes against any hardened target, it would be fairly effective against soft targets.
For whatever reason, most likely budgetary, LASM was cancelled. Which, to us, seems a shame, as the next logical step to us would have been to equip it with the seeker from the AGM-88 HARM, and use the LASM to suppress land based air defenses in support of carrier operations.
*SM-3 is a ballistic missile defense variant of the Standard Missile Family.