Navy Arms 4 Destroyers With New SeaRAM Defensive Missile System

May 25, 2016


The emerging SeaRAM defensive weapon will destroy approaching enemy drones, aircraft, missiles and small boats.

The Navy is arming four forward-deployed destroyers with an emerging ship-defense weapon able to track and destroy attacking enemy missiles, drones, aircraft, small boats and other threats, officials said.

The SeaRAM weapons system, designed to fire Rolling Airframe Missiles out of a Close-in-Weapons System, will be installed on the USS Porter, USS Carney, USS Ross and USS Donald Cook, Navy spokesman Ensign Marc Rockwellpate told Scout Warrior.

“SeaRAM combines two highly successful U.S. Navy systems: the MK 15 Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) and the MK 31 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launching system,” Rockwellpate said.

The SeaRAM system builds upon the infrastructure and radar of the Close-in-Weapons-System, or CIWS.  CIWS’ Phalanx weapon fires a 20mm cannon at close-in threats such as small boats.  The SeaRAM is part of a layered ship-defense system designed to identify and destroy longer-range approaching enemy threats, such as anti-ship missiles, drones, small boats and helicopters.

The idea is to supplement and build upon the defensive power of the CIWS, an area weapon which fires multiple projectiles from a Phalanx gun system to destroy approaching air and surface threats; SeaRAM increases the envelope of attacking threats a ship can defend against and hits targets at farther ranges than CIWS. Navy officials tell Scout Warrior they are very enthusiastic about SeaRAM, as it is the kind of weapon that enables ships to operate in a higher-threat environment.

“SeaRAM combines the RAM’s accuracy, range and high maneuverability with the Phalanx Block 1B’s high-resolution search-and-track sensor systems and rapid-response capability to give our ships enhanced defense-in-depth vs. a variety of potential threats,” Rockwellpate added.

The CIWS ship self-defense weapon can fire 4,500 rounds per minute; the SeaRAM weapons replaces the gun with larger, longer-range Rolling Airframe Missiles.

SeaRAM takes the defense envelope on a ship and expands it further out away from the ship. The rolling airframe missiles has a longer range than a gun and has the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously,” Rick McDonnell, Program Director of Close-In Defense Solutions at Raytheon Missile Systems, told Scout Warrior.

Installation in USS PORTER is complete and USS CARNEY’s is in progress, Navy officials said. Installations in ROSS and DONALD COOK will follow soon thereafter.

Unlike the CIWS weapons which, as an area-defense weapon, uses a 20mm cannon to shoot down threats close to a ship, SeaRAM fires a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) from an 11-missile battery, Raytheon officials explained.

The RAM Block 2 missile completed a series of successful tests against subsonic and supersonic targets during its development, culminating in the program achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in May 2015.  Testing has utilized both the MK-49 launcher and the SeaRAM launcher during test scenarios emulating real-world threats,” Rockwellpate explained.

The SeaRAM system is being installed on ships of the LCS class and can be incorporated into amphibs, carriers and other ships.  It is one of a menu of options being considered to increase surface ships’ self-defense capabilities.

SeaRAM on the Littoral Combat Ship

In addition to its integration onto four destroyers, the Navy is also engineering SeaRAM onto its Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS.

During a test last year aboard LCS 2, the SeaRAM missile engaged and destroyed an aerial drone, Navy officials said. This was the first shipboard firing of the new weapon, which emerged from extensive planning, assessment, modeling and simulation, Navy officials said.

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