Anti-ship strike from the air and European NATO

I mentioned air strikes on surface warships a couple times, including when I wrote about the Italian navy and how superfluous naval power is for countering threat surface warships in the Mediterranean Sea.

Back then I also mentioned that while this should be very much possible, I also mentioned that the Italians actually don't seem to be equipped for it. Thus let's look at this in regard to Europe as a whole.

The most famous air/ship missiles are no doubt the Exocet of Falklands War fame and Persian Gulf (USS Stark hit) infamy, but the Harpoon is quite well-known as well.

I'll ignore the short-ranged or tiny missiles here (Sea Skua, Marte, Penguin) and focus on those that could be used to engage a fully operational anti-air warfare destroyer, for example. I also ignore the Swedish RBS-15 here, since Sweden isn't in NATO.

A couple more missiles were in use, but have become rather or entirely irrelevant by now (Kormoran, Sea Eagle).
Rafale with AM.39 Exocet
Spanish and Portuguese air forces use Harpoons and the German air force still uses Kormoran 2 (at most 140 in storage if at all). The French use the AM.39 Exocet on naval Rafales and land-based Mirage 2000 while the Greeks use AM.39 from Mirage 2000s. NSM isn't in use as air/ship munition yet.

I doubt the Portuguese ever purchased significant numbers of AGM-84 Harpoons, the Spanish seem to have purchased only 20 AGM-84D Harpoon ever and about the AM.39 Exocet I only found out that the total production run was about 1,100 (it was quite an export success outside of NATO) and a mere 34 were ordered in the 1992-2014 time frame at all. The missiles in stock are thus technologically old and may be in poor shape due to very long storage.

In short; I didn't find out even only the approximate quantity of operational air-to-ship missiles in European NATO (it's certainly three digits), but I strongly doubt that saturation attacks with hundreds of missiles are feasible with only European air power at all.

This is in part justified by confidence in submarines and in part by the pitiful state of the Russian Navy. Several fairly modern types of air/surface cruise missiles may be relevant for anti-ship strike even though they were primarily developed with structures on land.

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We will likely see JSM and LRASM to become important future air/ship missiles in Europe, and the French may go on with their Exocet Block 3, though maybe mostly so in export markets beyond NATO. 

The MBDA Marte ERP missile (range now supposed to be over 100 km) is meant for the Typhoon and may be introduced into the Italian Typhoons, though the parallel operation of F-35 versions (which will likely have JSM integrated without extra expenses for Italy) puts this in jeopardy.

The once promising French-German ANS project was cancelled long, long ago and France doesn't seem to want to develop a conventional air/ship version of its ASMPA missile (it didn't do so with ASMP either). Many current anti-ship missile projects are rather anti-boat missile projects with missile weights of less than Exocet's warhead mass. MBDA's Perseus looks stillborn to me though the submunitions could be interesting for radar countermeasures.

This means there's no supersonic anti-ship missile in European service and there will likely be no such thing in service before 2025 unless one counts anti-radar missiles (particularly the new AGM-88E).
An all-subsonic threat makes it easier to devise defensive systems than a mixed subsonic/supersonic threat would, of course. The current emphasis appears to be on surprise attacks using radar stealth (though still often with emitting radar seeker) to detect, identify and lock onto the target before countermeasures were deployed. Then the missile needs to penetrate the soft and hard kill countermeasures somehow to score the hit. Supersonic missiles could also strive for surprise (supersonic seaskimming is possible) and are meant to overcome defences by leaving them too few seconds for an effective reaction.

A quick fix for the lack of supersonic air/ship missiles would be to introduce the rather heavy Taiwanese Hsiung Feng III in an air launch-qualified version (or "to import the technology" to quickly build a clone), but Taiwan would no doubt expect arms deliveries in return. I suppose only those countries who wouldn't jeopardise much trade with the PR China would consider this worthwhile.

European NATO members COULD build up an inventory of 2,000 capable air/ship missiles at expenses of less than € 3 bn within a few years IF there was a need for it. The missiles are expensive per copy, but the expenses would still be rounding errors in the overall picture of European NATO's multi-year military spending.
The current lack of such munitions means that the ability to dominate the seas from the air is rather limited, but the security situation seems to excuse this.



P.S.: I link to Wikipedia for convenience, but I have become rather estranged by it. I once had a heated dispute when I tried to remove counterfactual nonsense and was overruled by a majority who preferred to maintain a sympathetic myth even though the primary source that was found proved them wrong. Thus my Wikipedia links mean "I am writing about this thing/event", they are no a recommendations of any kind.

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