Video Above: How the US Navy Can Fast-Track Building 500 Warships: Warrior Maven Exclusive Interview
An Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle destroyed a “full-scale” surface vessel in the Gulf of Mexico during a cutting edge demonstration of a new air-launched weapon able to target and destroy moving ships at sea, a development potentially introducing new attack options for Navy and Air Force commanders looking for a wider envelope of offensive possibilities against enemy ships.
The Air Force - Navy program, called QUICKSINK, fired a precision-guided GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) at the surface ship as part of what’s called a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.
Some of the particulars related to the guidance systems of the weapon were not available in the report, yet an ability to attack with air dropped, precision-guided JDAMs against a moving ship represents a substantial step forward in the realm of maritime attack, according to an interesting Air Force report.
While torpedoes predominantly sink enemy ships via submarines, new methods explored through QUICKSINK may achieve anti-ship lethality with air-launched weapons, including modified 2,000-pound JDAM precision-guided bombs, the Air Force report said.
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“Heavy-weight torpedoes are effective [at sinking large ships] but are expensive and employed by a small portion of naval assets,” said Maj. Andrew Swanson, 85th TES division chief of Advanced Programs. “With QUICKSINK, we have demonstrated a low-cost and more agile solution that has the potential to be employed by the majority of Air Force combat aircraft, providing combatant commanders and warfighters with more options. The Air Force report is also clear that the QUICKSINK program not only enables aerial attack on moving surface ships but also greatly expands the attack envelope or surface area for anti-ship operations, as compared with torpedo fire.
The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research & Engineering awarded this developmental deal to the AFRL Munitions Directorate last year.
Air Force Research Lab scientists appear to have modified an existing JDAM with an ability to launch from a fighter jet and destroy moving ship targets, something which fully aligns with the service reports discussion of a Weapon Open Systems Architecture development strategy.
WOSA refers to the use of common IP protocol or technical standards engineered to accommodate and integrate emerging technologies as they become available without having to re-build the weapon. For example, software upgrades can improve the guidance functionality of the weapon or expands it targeting or explosive effects. This modification strategy can be massively expedited through the use of a common, interoperable technical infrastructure sufficient to quickly integrate adaptations.
As an Air Force-Navy effort, it would not seem at all surprising if the US Navy were to quickly adapt this technology into several of its carrier and amphib-launched platforms such as F/A-18 Super Hornets or even F-35Cs and F-35Bs. Software upgrades and technological adjustments could also better enable the Pentagon’s highly sought after multi-domain connectivity effort intended to link fighter jets with drones, surface ship and other air assets in real time to share target information and quickly expedite attacks on moving targets.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.