The big picture for anti-ship missiles was clearly changing in recent years, particularly because of the ramp-up of several new programmes to add a land attack capability. The challenges can be taken from emerging threats ashore. To keep today’s anti-shipping capabilities in shape, naval forces need to find alternatives to avoid dramatic obsolescence risks, replacing huge inventories of legacy systems like Exocet MM38s or Harpoons/Sub-Harpoons. Arguably the biggest challenge is to replace the variety of systems that do not cope with present day needs: battlespace dominance (neutralisation of land and sea denial systems) and power projection ashore, directed at time-critical targets such as relocatable assets.
New sophisticated candidates, like Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM), are set to cope with the extended mission roles of the next generation of naval assets, including submerged platforms and shipboard aviation. The NSM is Norway’s answer to the navies’ growing demand for a longer-range precision strike weapon. It will out-range many legacy systems: surface warships of any size and type can carry NSM in its vertical launch (VL) variant – also named VL-JSM (VL-Joint Strike Missile); shipboard helicopters can deploy the air-launched version (JSM); road-mobile launchers ashore can employ the coastal defence variant of NSM to counter targets at sea; and submarines may be fitted with NSM-SL.
Kongsberg seems to be very happy with the development so far. “Every variant is optimised for its market,” according to the manufacturer in summer 2017, adding that it is the world’s only fifth-generation naval strike missile with a land target capability. The selection in summer 2017 of the Raytheon/Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) positions it as the US Navy’s (USN) over-the-horizon (OTH) weapon system for its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) variants. It calls for an over-the-horizon anti-ship and low-level, terrain-following land attack capability. NSM appears to be the designated ‘government-furnished equipment’ weapon (canister-launched OTH weapon with fire control system) on the still conceptual, but quickly evolving FF(G)X class frigates of the USN.
This scheme also addresses the underwater warfare environment for which Kongsberg offers a submarine-launched version, the NSM-SL. It attracts the interest of the German Navy, which is progressing with evaluating its integration in the next generation of submarines – 212CD (Common Design) – to be built for both the German and Royal Norwegian Navies. The development schedule for NSM to cope with both countries‘ requirements for a surface ship- and submarine-launched missile has been accelerated following the announcement by the countries’ Ministries of Defence (MoDs) in February 2017 to extend naval cooperation from submarines to anti-surface missiles. Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace confirmed in May 2017 that for NSM-SL it has conducted a feasibility study in cooperation with selected industry partners to illustrate the potential for a low-risk, affordable adaptation programme.
Meeting the German requirements for a submarine-launched anti-ship missile with land attack capability for the next generation of submarines, the NSM-SL offers a 200+km (>108nm) operational range. (Photos: Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace)