Naval Air: June 13, 2001


: Lockheed Martin is offering the US Navy a new weapon to meet its new missions. The new weapon is a relatively simple combination of two existing weapons: the rocket booster from the existing Vertical-Launch Anti-Submarine (VLA) weapon (in service with the US and Japan), and the new LOCAAS (Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System). Both are made by Lockheed Martin. The Vertical Launch Autonomous Attack System could push its payload of four LOCAAS submunitions up to 100 miles. The LOCAAS weapons are basically small cruise missiles with a laser-radar that can be programmed to look for a specific type of target (e.g., a missile boat instead of a barge, a tank instead of a truck). Released at 20,000 feet, they would glide until the turbojet engines turn on, then search an area about 15 miles square (the four would search an area about 25 miles square). The weapons can communicate with each other, so they can avoid attacking the same target and could even call each other if one of them found several targets. (Each LOCAAS can fly about 100 miles, most of which would be back and forth inside its assigned search box. Each LOCAAS could destroy a missile boat or any ground vehicle, and could cripple a frigate.) Lockheed Martin is including the weapon in its offer for a DD21 Land Attack Destroyer design. The weapon is designed to deal with several types of targets. The Navy expects its next battles to be in Littoral (coastal) waters, where numerous islands and inlets could hide enemy missile boats (or missile trucks). The thought of a running missile battle between expensive US destroyers and cheap enemy corvettes (or trucks) has the Navy's blood running cold. The proposed new weapon would allow a US destroyer to send LOCAAS missiles into an area programmed to look for missile boats (or missile trucks) and destroy them. It could also be used to disrupt an enemy armored unit. Although it would be very expensive to use for this mission, an armored unit could be disrupted if key vehicles were destroyed. (If all of the air defense vehicles were knocked out, the unit would be vulnerable to air attack.) The weapon could also be sent to look for mobile ballistic missile launchers, such as Scuds. The weapon can be fired from the standard vertical launch tubes of US warships.--Stephen V Cole


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