ISIS attacks Egyptian Warship

Via EagleSpeak

International Business Times brings us the story.

The Islamic State (Isis)’s offshoot in Egypt – the Sinai Province – claims it launched a rocket and destroyed an Egyptian Navy frigate in the Mediterranean sea.

The IS affiliate released pictures of what it said was a guided anti-tank rocket attack on the vessel off the coast of northern Sinai, in Rafah, an area bordering Israel and the Gaza strip. The Egyptian military said it exchanged fire with militants off the coast and the boat caught fire, but there were no casualties as result of the incident. It did not mention that the boat was destroyed.

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Spill says he think’s the ship is a Chinese built Type 062 gunboat, which the Egyptian Navy does operate. It looks pretty close to me. “Frigate” is a fairly flexible term in overseas navies, and there also might be something lost in translation.

The first picture shows what appears to be an anti-tank guided missile in flight inside the red circle.  The fireball seems awfully big for an ATGM warhead. On the other hand, some missiles like the Russian Koronet have a fairly large warhead.

Other pictures clearly show the vessel remained afloat after the  attack, with firefighting efforts underway.

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Eyad Baba—AP

Whether there were no casualties aboard, well, we’ll see.

As Eagle One notes in his post, the cost of inshore patrolling just went up.

The Navy Needs a New Anti-Ship Missile- Here’s What They Are Looking At.

The Harpoon family of anti-ship missile has been in US service since the late 1970s. At the time of its introduction, it was cutting edge technology in small sized, sea skimming cruise missiles. But today, it is rapidly becoming obsolete.

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Harpoon missile

It’s range of roughly 100 nautical miles is a good deal less than the 150nm minimum that the Navy needs to stand off from enemy missile armed ships. The Harpoon’s radar seeker was pretty advanced when introduced, but today is increasingly vulnerable to jamming or deception. And while the canister launch system is quite compact, ships such as the Flight IIA DDG-51 Burke class destroyers don’t have space for even such a small mount. Ideally, any next generation anti-ship missile will fit inside the existing Mk41 Vertical Launch System that houses all the other missiles these ships carry.

Also, the Navy would like any future Anti-Ship missile to also be able to be carried and launched by existing strike aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet family, and ideally the F-35C.

Rather than starting from scratch, the Navy has been looking around at what else is already available.

And coincidentally, the Air Force began a replacement for its air launched cruise missiles a few years ago. And the fruits of that program recently entered service as the AGM-158 JASSM, or Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile.  A longer ranged variant has even more recently entered service as the JASSM-ER, or Extended Range.

(also counts as Daily Dose of Splodey)

Accordingly, the Navy, via DARPA,  has begun developing a variant of the JASSM-ER as a next generation Anti-Ship Missile. This program is known as LRASM, or Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

Unlike a cruise missile designed to attack targets ashore, Anti-Ship Missiles need to attack moving targets. That means they need an autonomous seeker capability to detect and track the target. Traditionally, this has meant a radar seeker. The Lockheed Martin, the contractor, advertises the seeker as having a multi-mode capability, which, just guessing here, includes a radar seeker, possibly a passive electronic seeker, and most likely an imaging infra-red and possibly a ultraviolet spectrum seeker.

The LRASM is powered by a small jet engine for cruising to the target. But to get it up to flight speed, it needs a rocket booster. To save development costs, the LRASM is using the Mk114 booster rocket currently used by the Vertical Launch ASROC anti-sub weapon.

Leveraging existing weapons and technologies allows for the relatively low risk development of a weapon system that is cheaper than starting from a fresh sheet of paper, and yet still provides a significant improvement in capability over the currently fielded Harpoon family.

The Navy hasn’t made any announcements, but it is quite possible that the LRASM will also be developed into a land attack variant to replace the existing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons- Stand-Off Weapons- 2 of 2

The need for standoff weapons for surface ASW is largely tied to improvements in sensors and detection ranges against enemy subs.

Most of our very brief mention of sonar has  been focused on the classic-hull mounted active “pinging” sonar. Familiar to everyone who’s ever seen a submarine, the sonar sends a pulse of sound into the water, and  patiently waits for a return echo.

We’ll save the details of sonar development for a later series of posts, but for now, suffice to say that deep diving submarines can dip under a rapid change in the temperature of seas, known as a thermocline. That rapid temperature shift changes the density of water, and tends to reflect active sonar waves, effectively shielding a submarine from active sonar at medium and long ranges.

The first response to this was Variable Depth Sonar, in which a second active sonar transducer was lowered from the fantail of an escort to a depth below the thermocline. Quite often, this thermocline had the effect of channeling the “ping” of the active sonar to effective ranges beyond what any surface sonar could provide. To effectively target contacts at that range would require even more range than the 5 or so miles the original RUR-5 ASROC could provide.

About that time, gas turbine engine technology was beginning to catch on in helicopters. And remote control of drones was being seen as a mature technology. Coincidentally, the huge numbers of Sumner/Gearing class World War II destroyers were slated to be modernized to extend their service lives, and to upgrade their ASW capabilities from their obsolete WWII fit to cope with their new mission of protecting carrier battle groups from fast, deep diving Soviet subs. And so DASH was born- Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter.

The QH-50C was a coaxial rotor unmanned helicopter that would fly under radar control to the range and bearing of a sonar contact, and drop one or two Mk 44 torpedoes.

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QH-50C DASH. The winch and reel for the associated Variable Depth Sonar can be seen on the ship’s fantail.

It was less than a rousing success. The aircraft was unmanned, and so lacked much of the redundancy that any manned aircraft would have. But for a ship’s Captain to lose an fairly expensive asset like a DASH looked bad, so many were reluctant to operate them very much. Nor, at the extended ranges of sonar contacts, was the location of the target precise enough to ensure the torpedo had a reasonable expectation of acquiring its target.

While DASH wasn’t a rousing success as an anti-submarine weapon, it did show that operating helicopters from smaller ships was quite possible. As an aside, modified QH-50s equipped with television cameras did admirable work as naval gunfire spotters on the gun line off the coast of North Vietnam. All the accuracy of a spotter, with no worries of a POW if it was shot down.

The second major sonar technology that came to prominence was the passive towed array. Rather than blasting sound energy into the water and waiting for a return, a passive array is a series of hydrophones in the water that simply listen for the distinctive sounds of a submarine.  By towing them at a distance from the escort, most of the ship’s self-noise could be avoided. Advances in signal processing in the 1960s and 1970s made the passive towed array a viable method of detecting enemy submarines at quite long ranges.  Detection at ranges of 50 or even 100 miles were possible.

The problem was, detection was all that was possible. Only the  most general range and bearing information could be derived at extended ranges by a towed array sonar. The challenge was to localize, identify, track, attack and destroy said contact.

The Navy, having learned that small ships could operate helicopters, and with a large number of escorts modified to carry DASH, decided that the best way to prosecute a distant contact would be a manned helicopter. The Sumner/Gearing destroyers of World War II were too small for manned helicopters, but the Brooke/Garcia/Knox classes of escorts could be modified to carry a single mid-sized helicopter. The Navy modified its standard shipboard utitlity helicopter, the Kaman UH-2A SeaSprite. Adding a radar, sonobouy dispenser, a tactical navigation system, and a datalink resulted in the SH-2F.

The Seasprite wasn’t simply a helicopter that happened to be based on an escort. Instead, because of the datalink, it was an extension of the combat system of its parent ship. The sonobouys of the Seasprite would transmit their signals to the helicopter, which in turn retransmitted them to the ship, when an acoustical processor analyzed the signals. Installing a powerful enough computer on board the helicopter simply wasn’t practical. And the deeper diving, faster, quieter submarines meant that unprocessed sonobouy data was unlikely to be sufficient to prosecute the contact.  The processed signals were then transmitted back to the helicopter, where its AN/ASN-123 TACNAV system helped the helicopter localize the submerged contact.  Once the locale of the contact had been roughly determined, repeated passes with a towed Magnetic Anomaly Detector would precisely locate the sub, and a torpedo attack made.

The SH-2F was also equipped with an LN-66 surface search radar (which was not datalinked to the parent ship). This allowed the Seasprite to also provide Over The Horizon Targeting (OTH-T) and supported Anti-Ship Missile Defense (ASMD). The radar wasn’t really intended to pick up incoming cruise missiles. But early Soviet cruise missile subs had to surface to launch their missiles, making them vulnerable to radar detection.

Because it supported multiple missions, the SH-2F and its associated equipment shipboard was known as the Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System, or LAMPS.

Almost immediately after its introduction, the success of the program prompted calls for a more capable platform and associated combat systems.  The Seasprite was a relatively small helicopter, and at a range of 50nm from its ship, only had about an hour to prosecute a contact. The Seasprite soon came to be known as LAMPS I.

The existing ships of the fleet were mostly too small to accommodate any larger helicopters, but the new Spruance class destroyers, and the Oliver Hazzard Perry class frigates could be modified to carry a significantly larger helicopter. Even better, they could be built with hangar space for two helicopters. Larger helicopters would allow more equipment (and torpedoes) to be carried, and allow more time on station to prosecute contacts. Having two on board meant a handoff could be made to the second helo, so any contact could be pursued non-stop for considerable lengths of time.

The Navy first looked at trying to fit the carrier based SH-3 Sea King helo onto escorts, but that LAMPS II program was soon shelved.

The Navy had kept a close eye on the US Army’s  UTTAS competition to field a replacement for the UH-1 Huey, which eventually resulted in the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Early on, the Navy asked for a proposed naval variant, with folding rotors, a folding tailboom, and extensive corrosion proofing (salty sea air is tough on airframes).

The resulting SH-60B Seahawk featured a more capable datalink, TACNAV system, and associated ASW equipment. Further, the datalink allowed the radar video to be transmitted back to the ship, allowing the Combat Information Center aboard to have a more complete picture of the tactical situation. Additional systems included an integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) suite. ESM detects, collects and analyses enemy radio and radar transmissions to passively sniff out enemy units.

In a first, the prime contractor for this LAMPS III program wasn’t the manufacturer of the SH-60B, Sikorsky. The need to integrate complex systems onboard the helicopter, and the host ship meant that IBM was the prime contractor, and the airframe was simply a product built by a subcontractor.

The SH-60B was a far more capable helicopter than the Seasprite. Bigger, with a longer range, and able to carry much more fuel and more torpedoes, the SH-60B was the primary ASW weapon of the destroyers and frigates it served aboard.  It is capable of prosecuting contacts up to 100nm miles from its ship for up to two hours.

About a decade ago, a modernization effort began to update the SH-60, resulting in the MH-60R that adds a dipping sonar, forward looking infra-red (FLIR)/laser rangefinder/designator and the option of carrying Hellfire missiles to improve its surface attack capability. The MH-60R is in production, and replacing the SH-60B.

In recent years, the emphasis has shifted from hunting Soviet nuclear subs in the open ocean at long ranges, and instead hunting quiet diesel electric subs in the shallow waters of the littorals, The MH-60R is better equipped to deal with this threat.

As sensors improve, the weapons of the surface ship will continue to evolve to provide the punch against subs. As the Navy deploys unmanned surface vehicles and unmanned underwater vehicles, it is likely that at some point, they will be weaponized to serve as the surface ship’s battery against the submarine threat.

Daily Dose of Splodey

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The Naval Strike Missile is a relatively small, long range precision anti-ship missile that the US is also working with Norway to develop into the Joint Strike Missile for use with the F-35 and other air launched platforms. No word on whether it will be used by the US as a surface launched weapon, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised, given the need to replace Harpoon eventually.