It may be seen as something of an understatement when Randy Kempton, Program Director for Naval Strike Missile, Joint Strike Missile at Raytheon Missile Systems, noted that “2019 was a whirlwind year” for his rapidly-expanding programme.
Last October, USS GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (LCS 10) became the first US Navy (USN) littoral combat ship (LCS) to launch the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), coupled with its combat system, while deployed. “This was a huge deal for us and for the Navy. We did this a year early,” Kempton recalled during a 15 January interview at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) symposium in Virginia.
In another instance, the NSM has found favour with military services beyond the naval surface community and the US. Last May, Raytheon announced it will integrate the Kongsberg-designed missile into the US Marine Corps’ existing force structure. And last April, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the Indian Navy cleared an important US government hurdle to become the first customer for the NSM in a helicopter-launched application. If approved under the US Foreign Military Sales process, the Indian Navy will be able to integrate the weapon onto its MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, which it is also looking to acquire under FMS.
Asked to discuss the differences among the NSMs expected to be fielded to end users in the three warfare domains, Kempton respondedthat “in terms of capability there are none. We haven’t gotten into the engineering details of the helo-launched variant, but there will be some different mechanical interfaces – they will be very similar, but with different mounting type options.”
As the symposium convened, Raytheon was continuing to expand its US production facilities and supply base for this programme – activities that will help migrate the Kongsberg/Raytheon content share for the missile from an initial approximate 75/25 mix to more than 50% for Raytheon. While NSM is a Kongsberg-designed and -developed missile, one of Raytheon’s many other current suppliers is Ducommun, which delivers the fire control suite. Asked if it is too late for other new suppliers to join this rapidly-expanding programme, Kempton replied “No, not at all. We’re always looking to expand – especially if there is a piece we don’t have in the US at this time.”
Raytheon referred questions on the number of NSMs on contract for the USN and their delivery schedule to the customer. The service was unable to respond to MON’s query by the time this article was submitted for publication.
Beyond NSM having been delivered for US Navy LCS, the missile will be government-furnished equipment for the evolving FF(G)X class. “And we’ve been talking to the Navy and US Marine Corps about NSM for amphibious ships. This would be an opportunity to give amphibs some offensive firepower,” Kempton revealed, emphasizing there is no formal requirement for the fielding of NSMs on amphibious ships, and that preliminary discussions on the topic have been “high level, conceptual, to advance the idea.”
Raytheon also responded in 2019 to the Royal Navy’s requirement seeking an interim surface to surface missiles for five Type 23 frigates.
Asked about the business case for any service to invest in NSM, Kempton commented “The real advantage is high TRL [technology readiness level] – it is ready now. It’s also in a unique size, weight and space, where it can literally be placed on a truck in the US Marine Corps inventory today, for example – it’s not a massive missile that requires a large number of vehicle modifications. As Norway has heavily invested in this missile, you are saving $100s of millions, if not billions, in development costs, and saving about 10 years in development time – it can be fielded immediately.”
Marty Kauchak in Virginia for MON