The U.S. Navy is pushing to deploy its new over-the-horizon anti-ship missile by late next year, months ahead of its original target date, according to industry executives familiar with the initiative. The service selected Kongsberg and Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile as its first new anti-ship missile in decades earlier this year for it littoral combat ship over-the-horizon missile, giving the LCS much-needed teeth as it operates inside Russian and Chinese anti-access envelopes.
With the first major deployments of the ships in years planned for 2019, the surface Navy is in a full-court press to accelerate and integrate the new missile on the ship, months ahead of its original target date. “In that initial over-the-horizon award for LCS, the installation timeline was on a two-year delivery cycle,” said Octavio Babuca, who works on business development for NSM, during an interview at the Euronaval naval trade show in Paris. “But we are now working with the Navy to support an accelerated timeline to the deploying to littoral combat ships. That is mid-to-late 2019 time window.”
The Navy exercised a contract option on the missile that supported the accelerated integration and deployment of the missile, Babuca said. Joe DePietro, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for small combatants and ship systems, said his company was working toward integrating the Naval Strike Missile into LCS-7, the Detroit. "We are working right now to put the Naval Strike Missile on LCS-7, he said, “in support of an upcoming deployment. That’s going to be a fleet decision but we are doing all the design work now to put the missile on the ship.”
The NSM is slated for the LCS but also will be integrated into the Navy’s future frigate, the FFG(X). In 2016, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson ordered the surface navy to reorganize the littoral combat ship program after a disastrous nine-month span between late 2015 and 2016 that saw mechanical breakdowns on four of the six LCS then in service, some caused by sailor errors. Surface Navy Boss Vice Adm. Richard Brown told Defense News in August that the program was closing in on getting LCS deployed on a regular basis, and that this would begin at some point next year.
“We are on track with the 2016 [chief of naval operations] review of the LCS … and I think we will see the first deployments next year and then happening continuously after that,” said Brown, who heads Naval Surface Force Pacific. “I will have the ships through their maintenance, and the blue crews and gold crews through their basic phase to support deployments next year. So, that’s really exciting — something we’ve been driving towards for a long time.”
The deployments will be closely watched as the oft-criticized program looks to shake off years of doubts, delays and scrutiny and start performing missions that have been under-served since the last small surface combatants — the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates — left the service in 2015.