One of the more subtle announcements, that wasn’t particularly surprising or earth shattering was the announcement, NSM, had finally been selected, by the USN.
For those who aren’t aware the NSM is a Norwegian Missile that has a range a bit longer than the existing and most popular of Western Anti-Shipping Missiles, Harpoon. Harpoon is of course ancient, having started life in the 1960’s, and while popular, the US never really loved Anti-Shipping Missiles, preferring to focus on things like fighter launched weapons and submarines.
NSM and it’s related family member JSM are good missiles. But they don’t stick to typical USN and US style thinking. They aren’t big, LRASM for example is a bigger missile. With longer range and a bigger war head. But being small has its advantage. You can replace a 8 x Harpoon box launchers with a 12 x NSM launchers for the same weight and nearly the same size. JSM is also small enough to fit into the F-35 internal weapons bay, and also the usual US VLS system.
The key thing about being selected by the USN is that it will be integrated into the whole US systems, directly. It also means there will be a significant supply chain for the weapon.
It also holds that the JSM is also going to be very popular globally and likely to be picked up with the USN/USAF.
Now Australia has been learing around the JSM and NSM like no ones business, we even designed a RF seeker for it.
USN even did some test fitting of the weapon. It starts to make sense why the weapons pod of the Advanced Hornet was declined. JSM is a stealthy weapon, while not ideal when carried externally, it is probably good enough to for a SuperHornet, and even on a F-35 external carriage is not likely to be a huge issue, normal load outs with 2 internals, along side 2 air to air missiles are ideal for the F-35.
JSM is likely to give a significant advantage over regular glide bombs, allowing the F-35 to engage ships and stationary targets at much longer ranges, with much lower risk of being detected.
NSM isn’t likely to be as revolutionary for the USN. But on smaller ships like the LCS and perhaps the future frigate which may very well operate outside the bubble of a traditional carrier group, pluging the weapons gap.
But for middle powers like Australia, it is a game changer. Both weapons really extend existing platforms. The SuperHornet will still hang in as a first strike weapon for a much longer period, with better low observability, and greater range.
For the Australian Navy it means being able to pack a 50% greater punch in terms of missiles, but with a stealthier, longer ranged weapon. Or some top weight margin that would allow some other weapon upgrade to happen. For example perhaps a rocket launched MU-90, or perhaps a larger caliber CIWS.
And they are stealthy. They can target completely passively, making it a difficult weapon to detect and spoof. They also have data link capability, and a range of modern features that make it very attractive. It is also able to be fired as a land based weapon. Something that may be useful in this age of hybrid land and sea defence.
While LRASM is also competitive in this space, it is a bigger, heavier weapon, for longer range strikes, and with heavier hitting power (1000lb). It doesn’t fit into a F-35 internal weapons bay, it won’t replace harpoon in box launches. It is probably better able to replace Tomahawk on medium range strikes against advanced or hardened targets.
NSM is also able to be fired from Subs. For a variety of reason NSM might be idea for a vertical launch weapon over things like Tomahawk or LRASM or and extended range Harpoon. Being short and fairly light, makes it more able to be accommodated in a submarine. While it isn’t a sure thing to have vertical launch missiles on the new Sea1000 submarines, it is something that is being openly discussed and would be in line with the capabilities of the submarine, including naval and land strike. An additional 8 VLS launch NSM (or Harpoon for land targets that need more punch), would be a welcome addition to the 4 torpedo tubes on the standard Barracuda design.
NSM was originally designed to be a replacement for Penguin, so another application is as a helicopter fired missile. A capability which again could be useful for longer range strikes, away from the platform. Distance brings security and options. Also this capability is movable, so could deployed on OPV’s or off the LHD for example.
The OPV themselves were originally designed with Exocet capability, which NSM would be ideally adapted if that was capability the RAN was interested in.
I expect to see Australia make some announcements regarding this missile (the NSM/JSM combo) now it is in the USN family.