The Case for a Medium-Weight Anti-Ship Cruise Missile

Image result for mald-v decoy
The DARPA, the Navy, and Air Force are currently funding the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Weapon Development program.  This intends to replace the decades-old Harpoon Anti-Ship Missle (AShM) on Navy warships with a new weapon, and develop an air-launched variant for Air Force bombers, as well as Navy and Air Force tactical aircraft.

The candidate weapons include an anti-ship variant of the time-tested Tomahawk.  An anti-ship version of the USAF JASSM missile (LRASM). And the Konsgberg JSM/NSM.

Konsgberg NSM and JSM

All have pros and cons, and ultimately a mix may be the most appropriate.

All of these share one thing in common, they are meant to kill relatively large warships.

Warhead weight:

Tomahawk - 450kg blast-frag
LRASM - 450kg penetrating blast-frag
NSM/JSM - 125kg blast-frag

For comparison:

Exocet - 165kg blast-frag
Harpoon - 221kg blast-frag

However, most warships we will face are not very large.  The Chinese Navy (PLAN) and Chinese Coast Guard alone have nearly 500 frigate-sized ships or smaller.

Type 056 corvette in ShangHai.jpg
Type 056 Corvette
Type 022 Houbei

Most worldwide navies consider frigates to be their "capital warships".  So, other than possibly NSM/JSM, the remaining OASuW candidates are significant overkill for most ASuW targets we should expect to face.

The US Navy and Air Force have many air-delivered weapons at their disposal to deal with these types of ships (e.g. GBU-12, SDB II).  However we don't have a credible helicopter-launched or surface-launched munition.   In 1986, the Navy purchased a number of AGM-119 Penguin missiles for use by SH-60Bs for this purpose, but it has since been retired.

Looking at foreign navies, some missiles appear to fall in the right size range,

Sea Skua - 30kg warhead
AS 15 TT - 30kg warhead
Marte - 70kg warhead
FASGW(H) / ANL - 30kg warhead
Deliah - 30kg

Sea Skua, especially, has been very successful in operational use for the RN.

From this list, a 30-70kg warhead appears sufficient to heavily damage or disable a small combatant up to small frigate-sized.

Ton-class Minesweeper, HMS Lewiston , damaged by Sea Skuas during SINKEX


Develop an anti-ship/land attack cruise missile that can be quad-packed in a Mk41 VLS cell, or 4-6 per MLRS pod, or carried comfortably in pairs by an MH-60.

Consider starting with MALD but with a reduced fuel tank to accommodate a ~30kg warhead.  Use the SDB II tri-mode seeker, which combines SAL, MMW and IR sensors.


MALD may be a bit too small, but it's in service and further development is funded.


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