During RIMPAC 2016, the largest naval exercise in the world, in which the US led 27 other nations, 45 ships, five submarines, and more than 25,000 personnel and 200 aircraft, a major element of the US’ grand naval strategy came to fruition: distributed lethality.
Starting in early 2015, the US Navy sought to reverse a trend of Russia and China’s growing capacity to rival the US’ naval power in their respective regions. The US aimed to return to the end of the Cold War, when the US Navy was supremely dominant and uncontested in the open seas.
No longer could the US Navy focus solely on defence. Instead it needed distributed lethality, which means putting war fighting first with a renewed focus on offence and equipping even the smallest ships in the fleet with serious, long-range firepower.
So the Navy began plotting to put over-the-horizon missiles on Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), and on July 19th it tested the Harpoon Block 1C surface-to-surface missile by firing it at a decommissioned frigate 20 nautical miles away.
The missile missed its target, but that really doesn’t matter. Targeting and fire control issues with new missiles should come as no surprise — after all, that’s the whole point of testing the missile.
But the Harpoon canister was placed near the forward deck of the USS Coronado and fired seamlessly, addressing one major concern for the Navy — that smaller ships would be rocked by the momentum of large, high powered missiles firing on their decks.
The July 19th firing of the Harpoon proved that they were good to go on installing these deadly missiles on LCSs across the fleet.
“It actually felt very normal,” Cmdr. Scott Larson of the Coronado said of the launch. “The impact essentially was there was no impact. It felt like any other missile launch I’ve done on any other platform that I’ve served on.”
“It’s very significant,” Larson said about the Harpoon’s addition to the LCSs.
“It’s a huge win for the program, a game-changing capability for the LCS variant, for the Navy and the message we’re trying to send in Seventh Fleet.”
Watch the video of the Harpoon’s launch from the USS Coronado below:
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