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IPFS News Link • Military

Four long-range anti-ship missiles team up in historic test

•, By David Szondy

It's sometime in the next decade and a US Navy group is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean seeking hostile forces threatening the shipping lanes in the region. Satellite intelligence has identified a pair of guided missile destroyers and their escorts 200 nm (230 miles, 379 km) away. Command orders an immediate missile strike.

Two patrolling F/A-18 Super Hornets launch an AGM-158C LRASM each. Meanwhile, a US frigate fires two ship-launched variants from its vertical launch system. The moment these four are airborne, they pick up their line-of-sight data feeds and then additional data feeds from satellites and other aircraft to provide the semi-autonomous machines with the latest information on their targets.

Along the way, the four missiles enter a zone of intense electronic warfare. Communications are jammed. GPS is knocked out. No more data comes in from Command. For earlier systems, this would have been the end of the mission, but the LRASMs switch to autonomous mode and update one another on how to continue the mission.

Using their onboard navigation, the missiles close with the enemy ships, but unexpected hostile forces suddenly appear in their path. The missiles automatically compute a new course and evade the threats as they continue to close on their targets.

Once in visual range, the missiles assess the destroyers' defenses and escorts. They select the most vulnerable spots on the ships and the weakest area of the air defenses to penetrate. Flying in at wave-height altitude, the four missiles evade the final close-in anti-missile batteries and strike with their 1,000 lb (450 kg) warheads, destroying or crippling the hostiles.