Marines Set To Be The First To Bring Back Land-Based Tomahawk Missiles Post-INF Treaty The Marine Corps wants to use the ground-launched cruise missiles primarily as long-range anti-ship weapons. BY JOSEPH TREVITHICKMARCH 5, 2020
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger offered details on his service's anti-ship missile plans while testifying before Congress on Mar. 5, 2020. The Pentagon's budget proposal for the upcoming 2021 Fiscal Year revealed that the service had requested $125 million to purchase 48 Tomahawks, but details about the exact purpose of the acquisition were kept classified initially, according to official budget documents and a report from Task and Purpose.
"Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps done over the past six months is how we think we are going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force and that means the Marine Corps assumes a role that we have not had in the past 20 years which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial," Berger told lawmakers. “The Tomahawk missile is one of the tools that is going to allow us to do that."
"It could be the answer, it could be the first step towards a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now, but what we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can from ship or from shore hold adversaries’ naval force at risk," he added. In recent years, there has been a significant revival of interest within the Marine Corps, as well as the U.S. Army, in ground-based anti-ship capabilities, especially for use in a distributed warfare environment, such as a major conflict across the wide expanses of the Pacific region.
A basic breakdown of Navy and Marine Corps Tomahawk acquisition plans from the 2021 Fiscal Year budget proposal compared to the previous two fiscal cycles.
A portion of the Navy's 2021 Fiscal Year budget proposal covering Marine Corps "artillery weapon system" procurement, which notes "Missile procurement details are held at higher classification."
There are still no details on the exact variant of the Tomahawk that the Marine Corps is looking to buy or what kind of launcher they're expecting to use to fire it. Commandant Berger's statement that the specific goal of acquiring the missiles is to be able to "hold adversaries' naval force at risk" strongly points to the weapons being the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST).
This is a subvariant of the new Block V Tactical Tomahawk, or TACTOM, also known as the Block Va. In addition to the general performance and capability improvements found on the Block V missiles, the MST has a new multi-mode targeting system, which includes an imaging infrared sensor, radiofrequency homing, and GPS-assisted guidance, allowing it to navigate to a target area hundreds of miles away and hit moving maritime targets. The missile will also have a two-way data link allowing for course correction and other targeting updates during flight.
General Dynamics first developed surface ship and submarine-launched anti-ship Tomahawks variants, known as the RGM-109B and UGM-109B, respectively, which used active radar homing seekers, in the 1980s. The U.S. Navy withdrew these missiles from service in 1994 and eventually converted them into Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) variants.
Years later, Raytheon, which is the present manufacturer of the Tomahawk series, under contract to the Navy, revived the concept of a Tomahawk that could hit moving targets at sea, which subsequently led to the MST program. “Now, this is potentially game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It's a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile. It can be used from practically our entire surface and submarine fleet," then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work had said of the concept in 2015.
In January, Shephard reported that the Navy's plans to reach initial operational capability with these missiles on its ships this year had been delayed. It's not clear if that could impact the Marine Corps timeline for fielding its land-based systems in any way.
The Marines will also have to develop a ground-based launcher to employ the missiles. In August 2019, the Pentagon did demonstrate a ground-launched Tomahawk using a launch cell from a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System mounted on a trailer. However, this was clearly a very experimental system for research and development purposes rather than an operational weapon system.
That test occurred very soon after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, came to an end. The INF had prohibited the United States and Russia from developing ground-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,420 miles. Before that treaty, which the U.S. government originally signed with the Soviet Union, came into force in 1988, the U.S. Air Force had operated a ground-launched nuclear-tipped land attack version of the Tomahawk known as the BGM-109G Gryphon, which had its own four-round tractor-trailer-mounted launcher.
One possibility for the Marines could be adapting its M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers in some way to fire MST missiles. However, the two weapons that HIMARS is presently capable of firing, 227mm artillery rockets and Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) quasi-ballistic missiles, are both substantially shorter than Tomahawk.
Separately in his testimony before Congress, Commandant Berger said that the Marines planned to integrate a ground-launched version of the smaller, shorter-range Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship cruise missile onto a derivative of HIMARS called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit Expeditionary-Fires (ROGUE-F). The present concept for ROGUE-F consists of a HIMARS launcher mounted on an unmanned chassis derived from the 4x4 Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) tactical truck.
Berger's comments about Marines being able to employ anti-ship Tomahawks "from ship or from shore" does imply that whatever launcher the service might pick, it would want one that it could lash the deck of various classes of amphibious warfare ships or other vessels and then employ from that position. The Marine Corps has already demonstrated its ability to use HIMARS in this fashion.
"A ground-based anti-ship missile capability will provide anti-ship fires from land as part of an integrated naval anti-surface warfare campaign," Commandant Berger also said in this testimony. "This forward-deployed and survivable capability will enhance the lethality of our naval forces and will help to deny our adversaries the use of key maritime terrain."
It's also worth noting that while the MST variant of the Tomahawk is primarily intended for the anti-ship role, the Navy has already said that it will have a secondary land-attack capability. NSM has also demonstrated its ability to strike land targets, in addition to ships.
A briefing slide showing existing and planned future US Navy missiles. Both the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST)/Tomahawk Block Va and Naval Strike Missile (NSM) are noted as spanning the land attack and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) roles, the latter of which refers to engaging hostile ships.
While the Marines may be first to field a ground-launched anti-ship Tomahawk, they may not be the only service to acquire them, either. The U.S. Army is also increasingly interested in land-based anti-ship capabilities and has already expressed an interest in acquiring its own ground-launched NSMs.
No matter what, the return of the ground-launched Tomahawk in the U.S. military, at least in the anti-ship role, is very much on the horizon now.
In supporting most of the Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams, however, YPG (Yuma Proving Ground) has also been a vital element in testing for the Army’s next priority, the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). By now, it is widely known that YPG is at the forefront of testing for the Army’s top modernization priority, long-range precision fires. Mark Schauer reports.
Since May 2019, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has been testing Advanced Running Gear (ARG) for potential use on the future NGCV Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. The ARG system is using an existing Bradley Fighting Vehicle as a surrogate test platform (Picture source: U.S. Army/Mark Schauer)
Since last May, YPG has been testing the Ground Vehicle Systems Centers (GVSC’s) Advanced Running Gear (ARG) for potential use on the future NGCV Operationally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV). The ARG system is using an existing Bradley Fighting Vehicle as a surrogate test platform. A robust suspension system is vital for a vehicle that tips the scales at more than 40 tons, and YPG has unparalleled test expertise and hundreds of miles of road courses of various degrees of ruggedness that closely simulates what a Soldier might experience in theater. The new track and suspension system has already yielded vital insights into evaluations done here. “We’re doing a proof of concept test for the road arms, road wheels, and track tensioner for the vehicle,” said Jade Janis, test officer. “The intent is to improve the ride quality and durability.”
The new running gear also provides more ground clearance and increased transportability and survivability, boasting an adjustable ride height that makes it easier to load on a trailer or navigate beneath bridges or other low-hanging obstructions. It also has a wider track than the currently fielded Bradley, AMPV and PIM platforms. “The wider track should assist with soft soil mobility,” said Janis. “The wider track results in less ground pressure, so the vehicle is less prone to getting stuck in soft soil.”
During performance testing, the evaluators collect roughly 100 channels of data, including the displacement and temperature of each road arm as they are put through their paces. The testers monitor if the system deteriorates through use, and try to discern a trend that will help estimate the normal rate of deterioration. As it runs, the exact location and terrain conditions of any possible anomaly can be identified. “If you have a failure, you can narrow down which part of the course and when the incident occurred,” said Janis. “All of the road courses we have are characterized with a laser.”
With performance testing nearing completion, next on tap is multiple months of endurance testing in which the running gear will be subjected to use across thousands of road miles of YPG’s rugged terrain. By running simulated missions across road courses featuring various conditions, from paved to gravel to punishing desert washboard that severely rattles vehicles, test-vehicle operators continually verify the running gear’s performance.
“There are a few target areas the suspension system is designed to improve on, one being ride quality to make sure the Soldiers aren’t negatively affected by driving across rough terrain for long distances,” said Janis. “Another thing is reducing maintenance times to be able to get the vehicle out in the field faster and keep it in the field longer.”
Army General: Emerging 70km-Range Artillery Cannons Bring New Attack Options
10 Apr 2020
photo: Brig. Gen. John Rafferty
Video Report: Army Research Lab Scientist Tell Warrior About AI-Enabled Robot Tanks
Warrior Maven & Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command ****************
Warrior: How does the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires technology achieve precision, given that the weapon is much longer range than standard guided precision shells?
Rafferty**:** “With Long Range Precision Fires (LRFP), there is a challenge adapting a precision guidance kit that has a much more violent gun launch environment. We use more propellant to shoot farther. The muzzle velocity is much higher so the “g loading” is much more substantial. It requires modification to precision guidance kits. When your apex is much higher, you get into thinner air. There is less air for canards to work with to steer and turn.”
Warrior: We understand the Army is now using a newly configured “shaped trajectory” 155m Excalibur round able to change course in flight and hit otherwise unreachable targets -- such as enemy armored vehicles hidden under a bridge or on the other side of a mountain. What tactical advantages does this round bring to war?
Rafferty: “We do have some adversaries who use reverse slope protection that challenges normal artillery because the descending portion of the trajectory can be masked by that reverse slope. A shaped trajectory is a different projectile used in limited numbers. In rugged terrain it allows a modified trajectory that can enable new effects against targets. We are working with industry to see what is possible.”
Warrior: We understand that your units are working with the Army Research Laboratory to develop even more advanced artillery rounds. What are some of the areas of focus?
Rafferty**:** “We are working with our Army laboratories to provide changes to material. Primarily we are working on coordinate seeking, GPS, alternative sources of navigation and target seeking, and also working toward assurance from jamming.”
Warrior: We understand that the Army’s Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapon has successfully destroyed targets at more than 62km, roughly twice the range as existing artillery. How is this accomplished?
Rafferty: “ERCA fires a 58 Caliber, which is about 30-ft long. It has a bigger chamber which allows for a different propellant and different breech. Muzzle velocity is generated through the length of the tube.”
Warrior: What are some of the engineering techniques used to handle a larger explosion for a longer-range round?
Rafferty: “Behind the projectile is a super-charged propellant and a sliding block breech. A robust hunk of metal seals the back of the cannon. The explosive train is ignited electronically and the larger chamber coupled with the longer gun tube allows for much greater muzzle velocity as it exits the cannon. On ERCA we have a sliding block breech which is like a tank gun. It is a block of steel that slides up which seals the launch tubes and allows for the generation of the chamber pressure. Otherwise the round would come out the back because of the least resistance. The sliding block breech is more robust and can handle a greater explosion. The higher the chamber pressure, the bigger the explosions.”
Photo - Brig. Gen. John Rafferty
Warrior: How is the longer cannon engineered to withstand these kinds of larger explosions?
Rafferty: “A muzzle brake at the end of the cannon helps with recoil by dispersing the fumes and blast. It helps direct the blast overpressure. The muzzle brake performs engineering functions. It helps with recoil, helps dispense the fumes and blast and it helps to direct the blast overpressure. When the round is locked in place, the breech rotates into a locked position, then the back end of the breech is sealed.”
Warrior: How does ERCA ensure a U.S. Army advantage over advanced adversaries?
Rafferty: “At the division level, ERCA addresses some of the challenges associated with multi-domain ops. Multi-domain is layered enemy standoff. ERCA can suppress and neutralize enemy integrated air defenses and enable combined arms maneuver. Combined Arms allows us to close with and destroy an enemy. It requires armor, infantry and combat aviation to work together in a synchronized fashion. If we lose this synchronization we are far less lethal. If an enemy has range, he can separate the combined arms team. Our adversaries have watched us and learned how we fight. They have invested in areas to offset our advantage.”
Warrior: How is LRPF being networked with ground combat vehicles, air assets for targeting or other key combat assets?
Rafferty: “All of this will be integrated on a tactical network that the network Cross Functional Team is working on. We will bring the combined arms effect of LRPF, FVL (new Army Future Vertical Lift helicopters) and NGCV ( Next Generation Combat Vehicle) networked together. Multi-domain tenets involve convergence.”
New X2 Helicopters Fly Like Fighter Jets: A Pilot’s View
The first time battle-proven pilot Bill Fell flew in a Sikorsky X2 Technology ™ helicopter, he knew the rotary wing game had changed. Significantly. And forever.
X2 aircraft have achieved speeds greater than 250 knots, low-speed and high-speed maneuverability at 60-plus degrees of bank, and the ability to hover in high altitudes and hot conditions, among other advanced capabilities.
“These fundamentals make a helicopter fly more like a tactical jet aircraft than a classic rotorcraft,” says Fell, an X2 experimental test pilot with Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, which developed X2 Technology™.
Combine X2 with the Sikorsky’s co-axial design, and military aviation has met the future of vertical lift, Fell says. At AUSA in October 2019, Sikorsky unveiled RAIDER X™ – its answer to the U.S. Army’s call for a Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA).
Bill Fell, X2 experimental test pilot
Conventional helicopter design and technology have relied on hover and low-speed maneuverability for several decades. These capabilities have been essential, but helicopter technology has not kept pace with the evolving demands.
X2 is proven technology that accomplishes exactly what the name implies: two times the speed, two times the maneuverability of conventional rotorcraft along with a host of other advantages, including significant improvements in noise signature and overall survivability. X2 is leading the way for the future of vertical lift – at high-speed.
The Key to Revolutionary Performance
The X2 difference is achieved through how power is managed for an aircraft.
“Usually, helicopter power requirements are calculated based on ‘hover power required’ as the highest demand condition,” Fell explains. “In X2 aircraft, power is based on the highest demand, which is now maximum speed, with excess hover power being the result.”
But that must require a giant fuel tank, right?
“Not true,” answers Fell. “The X2 aircraft performance and efficiency, proven in test flight, is closer to a turboprop airplane than a helicopter.”
RAIDER X™ Demands of Future Warfare
As emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics are revolutionizing the battlefields of the future, the complexity of modern warfare and evolving threats are pushing the U.S. military to develop and field advanced capabilities to do things previously unimaginable.
Commanders say the next generation of rotorcraft will need to be faster, more maneuverable, more lethal, and technologically advanced, including the ability to team with autonomous aircraft.
S-97 RAIDER® The Future is X2
Fell says X2, with its high speed and maneuverability, provides the futuristic capabilities the Army wants. It can be integrated in various kinds of helicopters supporting a variety of military missions, including air assault, air movement and MEDEVAC. It has also been demonstrated on small helicopters typically used for reconnaissance, security and attack needs.
“In the past decade, we’ve designed, developed and flown four demonstrator aircraft with X2 Technology,” he adds. “We developed the X2 demonstrator, two light tactical S-97 Raider aircraft, and the medium-lift SB>1 Defiant, which was created through a Sikorsky-Boeing partnership. And now we have RAIDER X in development, which meets the current and future needs – growth, affordability, lethality, survivability.”
Lower and Faster in High-Threat Environments
Sikorsky showed what X2 Technology could do in a flight demonstration for Army leadership in February, when it successfully showcased the S-97 RAIDER and SB>1 Defiant performing a series of maneuvers representative of their respective missions. In addition to speed, the technology includes fly-by-wire controls, improved hover performance, rapid maneuverability, and crisp control response due to the rigid rotor – all while maintaining helicopter-like performance at low speeds.
Fell reports that over the course of testing in the simulator, a number of pilots were brought in to fly a terrain course. “Consistently, the pilots in an X2 Technology aircraft fly faster and closer to the terrain. That is a tremendous advantage to the warfighter,” especially in high-threat environments made more complex by physical obstacles.
Christiaan Corry, a test pilot on the S-97 Raider program, noted that the fly-by-wire controls take on some of the decision-making, reducing pilot workload.
“With X2, the machine does a lot of the stability,” Corry says, “and to the extent possible, allows the pilot to be fully focused on what the battle scene is and not worrying, ‘Am I flying the right attitude and air speed?’”
As for maneuverability, Sikorsky says the technology allows for high agility at low speed, acceleration without changing altitude, a tighter turning radius, and the ability to execute a nose-down hover.
As the Army progresses to define the future of vertical lift, X2 Technology is already showing what’s possible. In March 2020, the U.S. Army selected both X2-equipped aircraft, the SB>1 Defiant and RAIDER X aircraft to advance to the next phase of their respective programs.
The Army's plan to build a fleet of Extended Ranger Cannon Artillery systems starting in fiscal year 2021 will cost the service at least a half billion dollars, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has warned the US Air Force’s GBU-53 StormBreaker, better known as the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB), has suffered almost a year’s delay thanks to a problem discovered with the gliding bomb’s folding wings.
The slim SDB is a 204-pound munition fitted with a pair of long gliding wings that enable it to soar up to 40 nautical miles, homing in on its target with a trio of seeking methods: infrared imaging, millimeter-wave radar and semi-active laser. The bomb is anticipated to be used on the F/A-18 Hornet, F-15 Eagle and F-35 Lightning II.
However, a serious problem with the bomb’s gliding wings has delayed production and initial operational capability (IOC) for nearly a year, according to a recent report by the GAO, a Congressional watchdog agency.
US Air Force spokesperson Capt. Jake Bailey told Defense News the problem lay in the “backup fin storage device” and is caused by “vibration fatigue over long flight hours.”
According to the GAO, the bomb’s long gliding fins, which remain folded atop the bomb during storage, could “inadvertently deploy before launch.”
“While this problem could affect all aircraft carrying the bomb, officials said the greatest impact is to the F-35, because the bomb is carried in the aircraft’s internal weapons bay and could cause serious damage if the fins deploy while the bomb is in the bay,” the report notes.
The SDB would be especially valuable to the F-35, since the plane’s internal bomb bay, necessary for storing munitions if the plane’s stealthiness is to be preserved, is not large enough to handle many weapons. The plane’s Block 4 upgrade has also stalled, preventing it from carrying other weapons such as the Naval Strike Missile and B61 nuclear bomb.
Raytheon's GBU-53 StormBreaker, better known as the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB), loaded on a US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle
Raytheon has been forced to retrofit at cost all 598 SDBs delivered to the Air Force with a redesigned clip that reduces vibration of the fins.
“The fin clip failure is the sole reason production was partially halted; once final government approval is obtained, ‘all up round’ production can resume,” Bailey told Defense News, which noted his use of a term that describes a fully assembled weapon. Bailey noted the board that has been reviewing the problem since December is in the “final stages of analysis.”
IOC is now expected to be achieved by August 2020, according to the GAO.
"It's ridiculous, to be quite candid. It is encroachment on roles and missions," says Mitchell Institute's Dave Deptula about Army plans for super long-range weapons that rival the capabilities of Air Force combat aircraft.