The Multi-Ammunition Softkill System (MASS), here being tested with the U.S. Army high-speed vessel Spearhead, is a
German-built advanced countermeasure system designed to defeat anti-ship cruise missiles. The MASS launcher fires
32 rounds that feature chaff along with an infrared decoy and smoke to distract or confuse ASM seeker systems.
The Navy has a layered hard-kill defense against
ASMs, including SAMs such as the RIM- 7 SeaSparrow
Missile, RIM-156 Standard Missile (SM- 2), RIM-162
Evolved SeaSparrow and RIM-116 Rolling Airframe
Missile Block 1, as well as rapid-fire gun systems such as
the Mk15 Phalanx Block IB Close-In Weapon System.
For introduction in 2011, the Navy is developing the
SM- 6 extended-range missile with an active seeker and
Block 2 of the Rolling Airframe Missile with improved
kinematic capability, Roberts said.
For hard-kill capability, the future Zumwalt-class
destroyer being designed for the Navy is to be equipped
with the SM- 2, the Evolved SeaSparrow and a 57mm
close-in gun system.
During a March 18 seminar at the Navy League’s
Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Adm. Jonathan Greenert,
commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said the
Navy needs to move away from its “fixation with kinetic solutions” for ASM defense. He advocated looking at
options such as adjusting tactics and using jamming
and other soft-kill methods.
The Navy’s plans for its complementary soft-kill capabilities against ASMs, however, are less clear. It is understandably reluctant to reveal details of these plans, some
of which involve sophisticated electronic warfare systems.
At present, Navy ships are equipped with active electronic countermeasures such as the SLQ- 32 electronic
warfare system that can jam radar signals. Ships also
rely heavily on expendables — which are deployed
based on the perceived threat — fired by launchers to
jam, deceive or decoy ASM radars, electro-optical sensors and infrared sensors.
The Navy’s standard decoy launcher — an almost 30-
year-old design — is the Mk36 chaff and decoy deck launching system, a set of six fixed mortar-like tubes that fire
Super Rapid-Bloom Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC)
cartridges. When fired, an SRBOC round explodes over or
near the ship, creating a cloud of chaff, small foil strips
designed to reflect transmissions emanating from the radar
of a missile or aircraft and decoy the missile off target.
“SRBOC is still considered capable against many current threats,” Roberts said. “Current and planned follow-on [electronic warfare] systems will include SRBOC.”
A version of the Mk36, the Mk53, also fires the Nulka,
an active expendable decoy that, after launch, uses its
rocket engine to hover in the air. The Nulka moves at a
preprogrammed rate and uses its radio frequency repeater
to radiate a signal designed to appear on radar as a ship
and lure the ASM away. Nulka has an advantage over
chaff in that is not subject to dispersal by wind.
The Navy declines to specify which soft-kill systems
will be installed in the Zumwalt-class destroyers or the
future cruiser, CG(X), with Roberts acknowledging
only that “it is also expected that DDG 1000 and
CG(X) will employ an array of electronic countermeasures. The Navy is still assessing options for CG(X).
“The U.S. Navy is always looking at new soft-kill
solutions for cruise missile defense,” she added. “The
Navy is constantly comparing its capability against
threat missiles. We do not discuss our performance
against specific missiles.”
Roberts said the Navy “continuously assesses technologies and systems for soft-kill, including in conjunction with our allies.”