By Jonathan Davis
The U.S. Navy aviation, aware that it is being outranged and outgunned by peer competitors, has begun testing a new long-range anti-ship missile that relies more on stealth than on speed.
The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) is carried by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Navy’s first new anti-ship missile in decades, the LSARM is designed to scoot past enemy missile defenses in targeting enemy naval assets.
Pairing the new missile with the Super Hornet gives the U.S. Navy a much more powerful capability to attack enemy warships from distances of hundreds of miles.
As reported by Popular Mechanics:
According to U.S. Naval Institute News, the Navy has now certified the anti-ship missile for limited missions with the Super Hornet fighter. The Super Hornet can carry at least one, and likely two of the big Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs).
Theoretically, this means that a carrier air wing composed of 44 F/A-18E and F/A-18F strike fighters could launch up to 88 missiles at an enemy task force, though it’s rare for all of the strike fighters on a carrier to be ready for action at once.
So, what’s this really all about? And why now? Think 9/11:
LRASM is fixing a key deficiency in the Navy—namely, a lack of a capability to sink ships. After the end of the Cold War, our Navy was left the undisputed champion of naval forces worldwide, with most of the runner-ups American allies.
After 9/11, the service changed course to support wars on the ground in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, and the anti-ship mission atrophied. The rise of the Chinese Navy and increased tension between NATO and Russia has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the Navy mission.
The Navy, like the Army, Air Force, and Marines, fell into mediocrity when it came to long-range fires because why develop such systems to fight low-tech wars in third-world countries?
But China and Russia didn’t take any time off. They continued to develop longer-range (and faster) missiles and fires.
One thing about the U.S. Navy’s new LRASM capability as it applies to the growing Chinese carrier fleet: Keep in mind that China’s carriers have ski-jump configurations, not catapults. So Chinese naval warplanes can’t carry as much ordnance and fuel as American fighters because they’d be too heavy to launch.
Also, China’s carriers are conventionally powered and smaller so their contingent of warplanes is less than that of U.S. carrier fleets.
As for Russia, it’s lone carrier is undergoing an expensive refit and it just caught fire recently.
Longer-range missiles that are stealthy are just what the Navy ordered in terms of dealing with rising naval threats.