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Industry has recognised the navies’ reliance on precision weapons and continues to develop and field capabilities that meet the challenge of the future operating environment.

The September/October 2016 issue of MT’s maritime sister magazine NAVAL FORCES recognises the significance of small, less expensive smart munitions with two special articles: One article presents a detailed account of the sustained relevance of precision-guided naval munitions (or naval PGMs) for which a number of inherent advantages are expected. The other article provides a detailed overview of the operational commitment of the US Navy to the GRIFFIN missile system, Raytheon’s development and initiative to arm the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) with a cost-effective over-the-horizon anti-ship weapon.

Also in the issue, NAFO presents important information on the testing recently undertaken by the Azerbaijan Coast Guard of Rafael’s SPIKE-ER (Extended Range) precision-guided missile system. Some argue that with this system the service can leverage the capability of a system of systems approach that will be able to speed its operational mobility and sustainability. According to some, there is a strong need for such systems, as the current operating environment will see changing missions and enemies.

Naval or maritime forces, including Naval Expeditionary Forces, must think about the lethality of the future operating environment. Thus, the introduction of new precision-strike armament should be seen as the user’s centre of gravity to deter, disrupt, or defeat elements of an adversary in any future conflict. Whether acknowledged or not, modern naval PGMs extend the gamut of operational capabilities well beyond earlier systems. Smaller navies are more and more investing in holistic capabilities that provide responsive fires and force protection. However, future victories will not be achieved solely by the navies’ ability and capacity to deliver overwhelming forces or kinetic firepower against an adversary. Instead, their success might well depend upon their flexibility to use the new generation of precision-strike armament.

Getting Top Marks

These vignettes are recognised by the Azerbaijan Coast Guard (aka Border Guard of Azerbaijan) that recently verified the operational value of Rafael’s SPIKE-ER missile system during a life firing test. The testing was undertaken from one of the service’s 32m long SHALDAG Mk V fast attack boats built by Israel Shipyards, and the missile was launched from Rafael’s MLS-ER launcher consisting of four tubes. It was told by the company that the missile system, with an “operating range” of 8km, will be able to counter an adversary at sea and on land that, “avoids detection through the use of tempo, denial, deception, and camouflage

.” Azerbaijani sources claimed that the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan, especially in terms of recent defence purchases, has been tightening in recent years.

A simple check of facts clarifies that modern weapon systems like SPIKE-ER (or the SPIKE-NLOS), belonging to a highly successful family of anti-tank guided missiles, are about to enhance the operational capabilities of small and medium naval craft, responding to evolving requirements of navies and other maritime services facing new asymmetric threats.

SPIKE-ER missiles on order by the Philippine Navy will be fitted to Multi-purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) to be built under a partnering agreement between Propmech

and Lung Teh Shipbuilding

of Taiwan. According to Rafael, it will provide three MLS-ER launchers in addition to three Mini-TYPHOON remote weapon stations.

STN

The Azerbaijan Coast Guard’s SHALDAG Mk V fast attack boat is armed with an MLS-ER launcher with four SPIKE-ER missiles. Note the TYPHOON remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) fitted with a Soviet era 23mm gun rather than the obligatory 25mm gun. Mounted on the mast is the TOPLITE stabilised observation and target acquisition system. (Photo: Courtesy of Azerbaijan State Border Guard Service)

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