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While it’s a good news for the Royal Navy and the NATO overall, I’m sceptic about the concept. It sounds very good. But I’m unsure if FCASW can have the range I would wish for… Furthermore these missiles should be integrated into the F35B as fast as possible.

Edit: One Missile-designe for air- and ship-launch and usable against surface- and land-targets would be a nice logistic-joker.

Last edited 3 years ago by Sebastian
Supportive Bloke

It what if it is a family of related missiles with shared front end seeker tech. Different warehouse modules. And different rocket launch or scramjet propulsion stages.

The ASTER family of missiles does that already with the 15 / 30 / NT etc using a common family of parts and then adding modules as range etc is needed.

The issue is more that guidance and comms can be pretty similar and that this reduces the number of systems on board. And also allows a range of highly task specific munitions to be carried.


Good spot SB. Don’t turbojet powered Spear 3 and rocket powered Brimstone share some seeker technology? The idea has legs I think.


It sounds really promising, what is the difference in armament carried, or overall weight for the ships to be classed as Guided missile Cruisers?

Max Jones

I think they will remain as frigates regardless of armament because these are built to replace the T23s as primary ASW assets – particularly for task group escorts. If these were to become cruisers then we would be lacking a dedicated ASW escort for the carriers.

Tim Hirst

There are no rules, navies round the world use whatever name the wish. It would be silly to strap some Martlets to a B2 River and call it a Guided Missile Cruiser but you could if you wanted to. You could easily call the T45 a cruiser, but the tradition has grown up in the RN to call AAW ships Destroyers.


Good answer thanks.


Using the Ticonderoga class cruisers of the USN and the PLAN’s Type 055 destroyers (NATO reporting name: Renhai-class cruisers) as a baseline, cruisers tend to be no less than 10,000 tonnes displacement with at least 96 VL silos, though some navies will class their cruisers as destroyers and vice versa.


All the terms are elastic. There is no global standard. For me though to be a cruiser it would need an area anti-air capability. SeaCeptor is good, but it isn’t an area system.


Even the word frigate was coined ( or recoined) for AS vessels by the Canadians when they started the building the River class ‘twin screw corvettes’


Yes. By measure both RAN and RCN T26 variants could be classed as cruisers. But then the RAN has the bigger Hobarts which satisfies my criteria too. Both though are the same size as WW2 cruisers. We could look at other things. Both T23 and T22 B3 were more heavily armed and size wise comparable with T42. But T22 and T42 were mechanically similar and more noise than the previous generation steam ships. Whereas as we all know T23 was built to be ultra-quiet. T42 is a destroyer yet it was given a number in the T sequence so it as an air defence frigate. And so on. And so on. We call ships designed as ASW hulls frigates and AAW hulls destroyers. And I think that is as simple as we can make it. Hurts my head. 🙂


Design standards, radar fit, propulsion has changed enormously since even the 60s. No heavy boilers , turbines and protected magazines deep down in hull below water line. The fine lines with narrow beam for high dash speeds have been replaced with much faster helicopters.
So much equipment is at deck level or higher, hangars and their helicopters, heavy vertical launch magazines and the radars and other sensors all want to be higher up. That gets back to stability in both normal and damaged condition which favours a wider hull- the naval architects prefer shorter as well. Higher accommodation standards mean space has to be designed in from beginning rather than than an after thought from the space thats left at bow and stern!
The size no longer means every weapon that can fit is added. A Black Swan type size ship is now an OPV with little offensive ( or defensive) power.


I am talking about how the terms mean little.

I don’t really need a lesson on naval architecture. Are you telling me something or just parading that you have some basic knowledge on the topic?

You seem not able to follow conversations.

Supportive Bloke

Would CAMM-ER cross that threshold?


Sea Dart going out of service had a range of 80nm.
Sea Viper has a range of 215nm.

CAMM-ER has a range of 25nm. It can go after crossing targets so not just a PDMS.

That’s about 2000 square nautical miles of ocean.

I am not sure. 🙂

Humpty Dumpty

Sea Ceptor is good? AFAIK it’s only been tested against a subsonic Mirach drone. How does that make CAMM good? Surely BAE 57mm guns firing 3P/MAD-FIRES could take out subsonic anti-ship missiles? And they’d be cheaper and have good magazine depth.

Dave Wolfy

Cruisers used to be vessels that could deploy autonomously, cruising the shipping lanes for long periods.

Dave Wolfy

Destroyers and smaller were, or are, escorts of other vessels.


The label is irrelevant. Functional capability is what matters irrespective of label

Tim Hirst

I wonder if we will in the end see 1 missile in a number of versions for the different launch modes, or a family of missiles with different airframes and warheads but common propulsion, avionics communications and seakers.


If the range is 300km then it sounds like a very capable anti-ship weapon but limited in a land attack use as the launching ship would have to be close to an enemy coastline to launch it and it wouldn’t be usable against targets well in land.

Would we not be better off with the T26 carrying a mix of Tomahawk for land land attack and FCASW for anti ship?

As the article says, it’s crucial to fit the FCASW to the F35 as Spear doesn’t have the range to operate outside of the engagement envelope of area defence SAM equipped ships. Does it matter if the missile is carried externally when the target ship doesn’t have a SAM system with the range to engage the launching platform? It doesn’t even have to be a capability carried by every F35. Just enough for there to always be, say, a third of the deployed air wing with the long range ASM.

As the I-SSGW is likely to be a tube launched weapon (NSM most probably?), it makes sense to do as the article suggests and move it to the T31 as T23’s retire.

All we need then is a data link on Wildcat and a decent sonar and double the number of SAM’S on the T31 and we’re really getting there. Personally I’d have funded those things ahead of the additional of CAAM to the T45 which was announced yesterday.

There’s plenty of apologists for the lack of ship embarked SSM’s on our ships based on it being a role for our SSN’s (a doctrine not adopted by any other SSN equipped navy). I think that fails to account for the fact that we will typically have only 2 SSN’s on operations with one assigned to the CBG and the other one east of Suez for cruise missile strikes.

Let’s hope that great news like this keeps on coming

Last edited 3 years ago by Sunmack
Tim Hirst

I don’t think the Tomahawk will happen. It’s getting to be very old. The US is already working on replacements for its various roles. Unless it was a very cheap deal on either secondhand or end of run units I don’t see it.
Tomahawk will still be useful for attacking low capability opponents, but soon it won’t be ideal for high end situations.

Supportive Bloke

I agree Tomahawk, although much upgraded, is old hat.


Fair enough. A mix of FCASW and Tomahawk’s successor then (which I imagine will be made to fit into the Mk 41 VLS). The reality is that a 300km range weapon is of limited use in the land attack role

Tim Hirst

If the final max range ends up at 300km. The max range like most details of the FCASW are still far from clear. It’ll probably be a couple of years till the outline of the final design or designs are in the public domain.

Rob N

Also the ranges given are not going to be the real classified range. You can bet in reality it will go further…


A range of 300km is far too short, but that’s about the only negative here. Tomahawk Block V will be around for a long time yet and is a better option for long range land attack and of course could also be launched in an anti-ship role if required.

Humpty Dumpty

TLAM needs a new variant that’s much longer ranged (i.e. able to outrange DF-26 and Kinzhal), stealthy and much faster (ideally Mach 5). And if it carried mini-missiles like Perseus then all the better to make a hit far more likely. Also give it multiple homing methods.


The range of FCASW isn’t confirmed as 300km. That was the proposed range of Persueus which isn’t the same thing.

Humpty Dumpty

So what *IS* the proposed range of FCASW?

Humpty Dumpty

“If the range is 300km then it sounds like a very capable anti-ship weapon”

What??? 300km is absolute garbage compared to Kalibr, Oniks and YJ-18. And even worse when Zircon comes into service.

T45s need an anti-ship missile that outranges any potential enemy anti-ship missiles.

The only missile I’m currently aware of that outranges Kalibr, Oniks and YJ-18 is Tomahawk Block Va. It would be far better if it was stealthy and much faster, but it’s the only credible option at present. And a new missile will need to be developed to outrange Zircon.


More good news. Wasn’t the hold up to do with difference of vision between UK and FR, the UK preferring a long range subsonic ‘LRSAM ‘ approach vs the French preference for asupersonic / hypersonic ‘Brahmos’ type missile.

Supportive Bloke

It will be interesting to see if it goes down the CAMM / CAMM-ER / ASTER family route: with different lengths according to range.

If so a version might go into S50 tubes and so be T45 compatible. That *might* explain the T45 + Ceptor and the timings of the up arming would mesh?

Meirion X

FCASW will require the full strike length tubes of Mark 41 VLS, to be launched with a booster attached.


Do you knowif the sylva A70 tubes can be fitted to a T45 as even a single 8 cell would be well handy improvement for this ship. The outgoing A50 could go into T31 to give it a bit more flexibility.

Supportive Bloke

It can but only by it sticking upwards further which might well be an RCS no-no


T45 has depth ready for MK41 and A70 instead of A50

Geoffrey Hicking

Anti-ship missiles are obsolete though- you’ll hit a civilian ship and lose the war! We were told that by all the experts. Thin Pinstriped Line and all. They CAN’T be wrong….. right?


…and that every warship will always be accompanied by an SSN that can undertake the anti-ship role

…and that no warships ever get into surface to surface action with other warships (see Operation Praying Mantis for why that’s not true)

…and that the Royal Navy is right to have single role warships with no SSM and next to no ASW capability despite no other major navy taking that view

Last edited 3 years ago by Sunmack
Geoffrey Hicking

…and that a shrinking navy is good because it improves sortie rates.


…and that leaving weapons and systems off ships reduces their maintenance cost and improves their availability


some commentators don’t appreciate that the enemy actually has it’s own intelligence capability and will have worked out a set of TTPs to deal with an RN task group devoid of any ASuW capability. 1x SSN can’t be in 2 places at the same time, and being ‘invisible’ isn’t a deterrent. The same for ASW.


I agree. The decision to build the T31, supposedly a “general purpose” frigate without a sonar is the most disgraceful equipment omission and leaves them as being nothing more than a 5,000ton OPV that can never be independently deployed in anything other than a benign threat environment


How many T23s are getting 2150? IIRC the first three T26 are getting new equipment, so there would seem to be scope for some ‘spare’ 2150s to become available, as the T23s start to go OOS.

Meirion X

Yes, one T23(ASW) has already had 2150 fitted.


T45 and then T31 basically reverse RN thinking since T12(M). When the much larger RN of the 50s / 60s came to the conclusion it couldn’t guarantee having the right mix of ships available when needed. Even then T41 and T61 went to sea with for the day a decent local ASW fit out.
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Last edited 3 years ago by X

A lot lot more russian submarines around then.
The A/S fit of the Jaguar, ( F37) an anti aircraft frigate, shown was very meager (1 squid and a tracking sonar ?)


Should we take air search radar and associated weapons off most of our ships then because there are fewer Russian aircraft?


This is also feeds back to the rather odd decision to call T23 without 2087 ‘general purpose’………


Unless I have missed there has been little mention of the damage Russian EW did to that Dutch frigate’s kit. There always appears to be the assumption that opfor is useless. And sadly they are not.


Agree with you. They’re very wrong, very naive and blinkered by group think. Easy to say when you’re not aboard a warship having to face down a peer warship with ASuW. Any N2/ J2 will find a set of TTPs to engage an RN warship without ASuW capability.
Well done RN for plugging the capability gaps.


Yes they’re wrong. It depends on the type of sensor the missile uses and whether it has a two-way data-link.

Missiles can use the following type of sensors and each have their pros or cons.

Active radar. Due to the relatively small size of the missile, the radar has only limited signal processing. It’s detection range is also relatively weak. Unless it uses a very high frequency radar operating in the Ka band and above, the reflection from the target is of poor resolution and lacks features, so positive target identification cannot be guaranteed. As the radar is relatively simple it can be spoofed by both active and passive countermeasures. However, it gives the missile a true all weather capability. Being active, the ship’s electronic surveillance system should detect the radar before the missile detects the ship.

Passive radar. This relies on the target ship’s radar or radios transmitting. If these are turned off or use advanced wideband frequency hopping, the missile’s receiver will have trouble keeping track of the ship. It does give the missile a passive means of homing on the target.

Imaging infrared. This can provide a high resolution image of the target. It works similarly to a camera’s CMOS sensor, but operates in either the upper or lower IR bands, the more expensive sensors use a combination of both. IR sensors can be highly affected by weather conditions, such as very heavy rain and snow. Again it provides a passive means of homing in on to the target.

Video guidance. This is where a visual spectrum camera is used to feed back target data to the operator. The missile communicates the visual data back to the operator via a discrete data-link either via radio link or over a spooled metal wire or fibre optic. If the data-link is disrupted the missile follows an unguided track. It does provide a passive means of attack though, unless the radio data-link is detected.

Semi-active laser. This requires a missile’s laser sensor to home in on the reflections from ship by an active designator laser. A laser is difficult to detect due to the very small diameter of the beams’ spot. It can be affected by environmental conditions such as rain, snow, sand, smoke ash clouds. It has a relatively low range due to the low power of the designating laser.

The UK as well as many other Navies operate within a rules of engagement (RoE) dictated by international law and their Government. In general it states that you must positively identify your target. It would seem over the horizon anti-ship missiles do not conform to these rules. But if the missile is equipped with a two way data-link that allows the operator to see what the missile’s sensor sees, but also allows it to be retargeted in-flight, if it locks onto the wrong target. This is the problem with active radar guided missiles. Unless they are using a very high frequency radar, such as the one Spear 3 uses, they will have problems discriminating between a ferry boat and a warship, an operator will need to be at the top of their game to tell the difference. Furthermore, due to their limited signal processing they can easily be spoofed by clouds of chaff. So unless a 3rd party helps with the targeting, firing a radar guided anti-ship missile beyond the horizon carries a lot of risk.

Therefore, to conform with the current RoE you need a missile with a sensor that has a high resolution and the advanced processing to allow it to discriminate between neutral vessels and the true target. The imaging infrared sensor can do this, but it needs a library image of the target to back this up. To make sure the correct target is targeted the sensor’s data will need to be fed back to the operator via secure data-link, allowing them to either keep the missile on target, re-target it against another vessel or abort the mission. There are a number of missiles that conform to our RoE and still have over the horizon capabilities, the Kongsberg NSM is a good example.



JSM though has both an IIR & a new RF seeker from BAE Australia (funded by Au Gov & part of the agreement for Australia’s participation in funding JSM). While obviously falling under your passive radar heading, it appears to be something new & Konsberg seem more than happy to the point of considering back porting it to NSM. Is the solution for many AShM to have dual or even more mode seekers? IIR seems the gold standard, but in poor weather you need something else (even GPS) to get you into foolproof range detection range?

Sorry, not well worded – just looking for informed comment.


Yes the LRASM uses dual sensors. The passive radar detector has been said to detect some radio emissions to, but these won’t be recorded in the missile’s library unlike the radar.

Any IR sensor will have range and detection issues depending on the weather. If it’s raining cat and dogs or there’s heavy snow falling. It’s detection range can suffer badly. However, most modern missiles back this up with a combined inertia measurement unit and GPS (IGPS). The IGPS will remember where the IR last located the target and fly it towards the last known location. If it gets there and the target is not in view, the missile will fly a circular path, hoping to reacquire the target. The missile may fly a number of loitering circuits before it goes into an auto-destruct mode. A lot of these missiles also have a data-link. If it’s only a one way, then general it’s a operator to missile link, not the other way. The operator will need to be nearby to see if the missile has lost the target by comparing its track to the aircraft/ship sensors, then may chose to look for the target in a new direction. If it has a two way data-link, the operator may see what the missile sensor see and which way the target was heading when it was lost, then fly it along that track hoping to reacquire it. Or pop up and go active with the aircraft’s radar to find the target again, sending the new location to the missile.

The LRASM’s passive RF detector, is a bit like an aircraft’s radar warning receiver (RWR). A list of known emitters are stored in a preloaded library. The target vessel’s primary, secondary, missile tracking, gun laying, shell tracking, CIWS radars are batched together in a file. The detector will pick up the ship’s radars long before it’s detected and categorize them. Going through a tick list to identify the ship. The detector can also detect satcom transmissions, however, this would be dependent on where the satcom aerial is pointing, unless it’s using an omnidirectional one.

Therefore, LRASM can identify a ship by using both or either of its passive sensors. They compliment each other. Thereby mitigating weather conditions or the ship going black.

Kongsberg aren’t stupid. The RF detector can help the NSM/JSM just as well. It would make perfect sense to include it. Though something within the missile will have to be lost (probably fuel) to allow the detector to be fitted.


I got the distinct impression that Kongsberg managed to fit the RF seeker without otherwise changing the missile. Perhaps that is what is new about it, it may be smaller than other comparable sensors? It’s hard otherwise to back port it to NSM unless it’s for new missiles only.

Thanks for the informative reply.


LRASM as the ability to correctly identify its target and avoid any merchant shipping…..


LRASM has the ability to distinguish between warships and merchant vessels…..

Humpty Dumpty

“LRASM has the ability to distinguish between warships and merchant vessels”

Well in theory. Until it proves that capability in a war then that claim is up in the air.

Simon m

This is good news we actually may get a Navy with weapons & hopefully the end of FFBNW!

I personally hope that I-SSGW is NSM & F35b will get JSM as there are some commonality savings.
Also USMC are likely to have this as a capability – hopefully meaning no integration costs.

If FCASW has been brought forward I wonder if the RN have dropped the subsonic aspect of the design & possibly look towards block V tomahawk instead. TLAM is viewed as a more affordable CM, whereas LRASM for higher priority targets.

Dogs Nads

Not sure if the USMC will go down the JSM route. They’d need to pay for external carriage integration works. Meanwhile the USN will be integrating the far meatier LRASM…they may just decide to use that instead.

If anything subsonic FCASW is more likely, far easier to design and develop than a ‘hypersonic’ (in reality high supersonic) missile. Besides the main reason for FCASW is a Storm Shadow/SCALP replacement…anti shipping strike is a distant second.


The USMC are buying NSM to be operated from the back of JLTVs. They have expressed an interest in the air launched JSM.


Norway, Australia and Japan have paid for the JSM integration on the F35, which is coming with the Block IV upgrade. If the integration costs have been paid for “we only” have to for the missile, training and maintenance.


Good point, but ideally commonality with the USMC would be advantage, specially if their F35’s continue to operate from our carriers. I suspect they will opt for LRASM and considering our ‘new missiles’ won’t actually be available until 2028, if indeed it is actually physically operational by then, LRASM as interim approach would certainly go a long way to enhancing the credibility of our Type 23/31s.


LRSM is a big & expensive missile. The likes of NSM/JSM are way cheaper & can even be utilised as shore based missiles (already in NATO service). Buying something reasonably expensive & then throwing it away a few years later seems wasteful.


Good points. It’s also important for UK to signal continued commitment to FCASW to keep France on board, which effectively precludes LRASM as it’s too similar. The announcement of options to extend the lifetime of I-SSGW beyond the interim requirement makes NSM/JSM look increasingly the favourite, as it can be retained as a complimentary capability to FCASW once it arrives.


NSM is also hello capable, being the Konsberg replacement for Penguin, but longer ranged. In the game of have they or haven’t they, any ship with a helicopter could be a maybe (provided it gets integrated). JSM is being looked at for P8 & for torpedo tube launch. Sometimes a question mark will get you further than an exclamation mark.


The NSM, JSM, VL-JSM family must be in a very strong position re the interim AShM requirement. And the UK F-35Bs need a longer stand off capability than Paveway.


When Kongsberg were modifying the NSM into the air launched JSM specifically for internal carriage in the F35A and C. They found the modifications also suited the Mk41 VLS cell. But also allowed the sheathed missile to be fired through a torpedo tube.


Pleased to hear this is making decent progress, but to echo other comments to be a land attack missile it really needs to have a range at least equal to Storm Shadow.

Getting it to suit a myriad of launch platforms across 2 customers will be a challenge, but if they get it right it’ll be so much better to have 24 dual-mode missiles on T26 rather than some AShM and some land attack.

Having another AShM box launched isn’t ideal but I completely agree that if we’re going to get an interim capability then it makes sense to retain it for longer than 4 years and move it across to the T31’s.

Humpty Dumpty

Storm Shadow has a paltry range. T45s need a land attack missile that outranges DF-26 and Kinzhal, i.e 5,000+ km. And why on earth would you fit land attack missiles on a T26, which is supposed to be a quiet sub-hunting vessel? That makes absolutely no sense at all. Put land attack missiles on T45s and their successors, not T26s.

Bloke down the pub

With these upgrade announcements being made, anyone might think that someone has told the government that the Russians and the Chinese might not have our best interests at heart.


From what I’ve read on previous conflicts, this usually happened too late.

James Fennell

I understood there were two designs – the French favoured Mach 5 supersonic anti-shipping weapon and a British favoured longer ranged but subsonic land attack weapon – so its possible two missiles will emerge from the programme, and with a bit of luck we will get both,


It’s only the RAF wants the slow one so Typhoon can launch from a long way from target.

The RN wants supersonic/hypersonic.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ron5
Meirion X

So the RAF should keep Storm Shadow then, just update it?

Humpty Dumpty

Can’t the RAF launch a long way from a target using a Mach 5 missile? I don’t understand your point.

Last edited 2 years ago by Humpty Dumpty

Two missiles seems somewhat unlikely given the tiny production runs to be expected.

Humpty Dumpty

A good anti-ship or land attack missile would be stealthy, fly at Mach 5, be manoeuvrable and be able to accelerate in its terminal phase and carry mini-missiles internally like Perseus to make a successful hit more likely. What’s the point of building a subsonic weapon? It makes absolutely no sense to me at all.

Nigel Collins

Finally, some excellent additional news on missile upgrades for our armed forces, It appears hypersonic weapons are at the top of the agenda for the USA as well.

I wonder what we will select as an interim solution?


The US military currently has six hypersonic weapons program in development that they have publicly acknowledged. They are the HACM, ARRW, LRHW, OASuW-II, IRCPS, and a hypersonic version of the SM-6. It’s possible (likely) that there is another classified program but we most likely won’t hear about that for many years.

Last edited 3 years ago by Netking
Andrew D

Yes at last the Government have woke up keep it up ☝

Trevor Holcroft

I’m dizzy with acronyms…


Hands up all those people who think that getting this missile to sea and fully operational by 2028, that is to say longer than it took to fight the entire Second World War, is really going to happen. French assistance should never be taken for granted or relied upon as history has repeatedly shown.


To be fair France needs to deliver the capability on time for their own requirements and are equally concerned that UK may drop out. The purpose of ISSGW is to align the development cycle between the two countries. The principal issue seems to be agreeing the specifications.

Tim Hirst

Very true. Plus MBDA will be keen to push forward as they have a large Exocet customer base they will want to hang on to.


 that is to say longer than it took to fight the entire Second World War”
You have very unrealistic ideas of development times , even those of the WW2.
the example Handley Page Halifax was chosen in early Feb 37 ( alongside Avro) as the P13/36 heavy bomber. There were various changes along the way ( as they do to this day) and the plane went on its first operations in Mar 1941. Very close to 4 years even though the urgency was high and even the war started.


Good point, plus things just take longer to develop these days because the tech is more complex and needs to be integrated with the existing systems. Besides the development timeline of FCASW has been deliberately stretched out to align UK and France development cycle.


If the T45s are getting the Aster Block 1NT, then this missile should be able to do exactly the same as the SM6. If anything it should be slightly better as the 1NT gets the new radar upgrade operating at a higher frequency. Meaning it should be able to produce a higher resolution image of a ship than SM6. The longer booster engine will enable the missile to go much faster than the standard Aster 30’s Mach 4.5. So with a software upgrade there’s potential for using the Aster as a ballistic anti-ship missile as per the SM6.


Wouldn’t the Aster Block 1NT be more similar to she SM-3 in terms of target set than the SM-6?


No, the 1NT can only engage targets in the atmosphere just like the SM6, as it uses aerodynamic control surfaces. The version you are thinking about is the Block 2 BMD. This like the SM3 is for engaging predominantly exoatmospheric targets. Like the SM3, it uses reaction jets to control its direction. SM3 can be used against targets in the atmosphere, but due to its massive cost the SM2 and SM6 are preferable.


Aster 1NT uses exactly the same booster as Aster 30.


Nope, the 1NT amongst a new radar, software and other upgrades gets a new modified booster, which includes a new fuel type. The new fuel burns more efficiently and develops more thrust, hence why the 1NT has significantly longer ranger and a higher terminal speed.



Aster 30 Block 1NT modification consists in a new seeker operating in Ka band and a new weapon controller and retains same size, mass and booster

Dick Van Dyke

Sounds like a great idea, when can we see a Ceptor reload at sea ?


I would say never. There is simply no workable solution to do so.


The easiest way I can see is via a containerised solution. Reloading at sea is doable (is done) where the missile tube is (or can be made) horizontal, rather than vertical. RAM is a well known example. A containerised system that looks somewhat like Land Ceptor (missile tubes are hydraulically raised from horizontal to vertical to fire), would allow horizontal reloading.


For a hypersonic missile to have any decent range. It has to fly at a very high altitude where the air is much thinner and has much reduced drag. If we try using a hypersonic sonic missile, which is just about doable, say at 50m above sea level. The air here is really thick, thereby the induced and generated drag is incredibly high. Therefore, the fuel consumption to achieve hypersonic speeds rises exponentially to the point that something the size of a Storm Shadow becomes useless in range. It would burn through its fuel so fast you would have to release it very near the targeted ship.

However, if you use a high parabolic path, where the majority of the flight is above 80,000ft. You can make the hypersonic missile go a lot further on the available fuel. From what little information has been released about Brahmins 2, it is said to fly at least Mach 7 if not faster. To achieve this it will need lots of fuel and therefore it’s not going to be small. If we consider the Kh-32 that can travel up to Mach 4.6, it is some 11.5m long and weighs about 5,500kg. The majority of this mass is used as fuel for its ramjet. Yet it has to fly over 40,000ft to achieve it’s supposed 1000km range.

If we can extrapolate these details to a scramjet powered missile that travels over Mach 5. How much fuel will it need to go 500km let alone 1000km? The majority of the time it will have to fly really high to maximize its aerodynamics and the available fuel it has. Therefore, if it’s flying very high it will be incredibly easy for a radar to spot and track it. As the missile gets nearer to the target it’s likely going to have to dive on it. But as it passes through denser air, it will slow down due to the increasing drag and friction of the air. Lower still and it may build up a plasma corona that will effectively blind its sensors. Which means it will have to slow down even further. At which point it becomes fair game for the ship’s air defenses.

The fuel issue may be one of the possibly reasons why the US are looking at hypersonic glide vehicles as well as an adaption of the SM6 missile. Launched to near space altitudes by a rocket booster. They impart this kinetic energy with gravity to the glide vehicle to achieve incredibly long distances. The SM6 becomes basically a medium ranged ballistic missile reaching altitudes over 125,000ft using the boost phase and then gravity to achieve a high supersonic to low hypersonic speed when diving at the target. A lot more efficient than trying to push your way through dense air.

Lots to consider!


Great write up but there are a few things that are unclear to me based on what i’ve read on the topic and a few that you should be aware of.

Tracking seems to be a major concern as it appears most radars are simply not design to track an object moving at that speed and maneuvering at a much lower altitude in the atmosphere. I have seen public testimony from high level US military officials admitting that the US currently lacks the ability to reliably and persistently track a hypersonic weapon. In a way it’s similar to why most highly capable military radars have issue tracking slow moving civilian drones. It’s not that the hardware isn’t capable, they are simple not tuned to detect objects at that size and speed of a civilian drone. As opposed to ballistic missiles where the target can be predicted within minutes based on launch point, speed, apogee, etc. A hypersonic weapon takes all this out of the equation as it is flying below or around the coverage of radars designed to track ballistic and cruise missiles. 

There are proposals in the US for an entirely new space surveillance architecture due to the threat that hypersonic weapons pose. Even with the new SBIRS which should be able to detect the launch of a missile, it’s is believe that it loses coverage soon after due to the much lower altitude that hypersonics fly.

Boost glide vehicles are unpowered after release from it’s booster rocket, yet reportedly they have ranges in thousands of km. Much of it lower than the flight profile of a typical ballistic missile.

The excerpt below is from an article discussing the US army’s hypersonic weapon development.

“There remain few details about the exact size and capabilities of the new boost-glide vehicle. SWERVE was approximately 100 inches long and could reach a peak of Mach 12 before gliding along at a sustained Mach 8 for a full minute. The Army’s goal for AHW was also a sustained speed of around eight times the speed of sound that would allow the weapon to travel around 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes.”

If that turns out to be true we’re approaching ICBM ranges with some of these weapons. I assume most won’t come near this range but it shows the capability and why they are being pursued. One last point about the predicted plasma shield. I saw an interview where a pentagon official stated the plasma shield was not an issue with regards to targeting or communicating with the weapon.


All this reminds me of that fabric bi-plane that landed in Red Square in Soviet days. If you have the RCS of a beach ball, & fly low & slow enough, are you a goose or a cruise missile?


Yes you’re correct. Older radar and combat management systems cannot find, track or work out an interception. of hypersonic vehicles. The problem is with pre-digital radar. These radars have a a device to determine if a detected object is real threat or not. The device is called a range gate. The radar will use a number of these to measure an object’s velocity between two points. If the object is below or above a velocity threshold, it will be ignored. Because the range gate is based on transistor logic, the parameters are fixed. The maximum and minimum velocities are set for things like meteorites falling and flocks of geese. So before the 1990’s this wasn’t a problem as most threats travelled at speeds less than Mach 5. Organizations like the USAAF operated radars specifically made to track ballistic missiles, whose range gates were tweaked for Mach 10+ objects. But then people began to realize that if you traveled faster than Mach 5, you wouldn’t be tracked, so what if we built a weapon that could go this fast?

I believe Russia were the first to investigate hypersonic weapons. But as a happy circumstance. The US were investing in anti-ballistic missile technology, initially through the Star Wars program. Although this was to use satellite deployed interceptors. There were also to be ground based interceptors.

The ground based ones were the last ditch attempt at intercepting multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Programs were shelved and restarted. But it led to two systems, THAAD and SM3. The previous decade was used to work out the physics of intercepting an exoatmospheric target and reentry vehicle.

Lots of the issues were to do with the warhead timing fusing. The timing of the detonation was critical, too soon and the debris dispersed too quickly hardly damaging the target. To late and the target would pass through without damage. This timing problem led to a change in the kill method to a direct kinetic hit. Where the interceptor would deliberately steer into the target. However, the newer SM6 still uses a fragmentary warhead.

The ICBM when reaching medium earth orbit will be traveling near Mach 20, before it deploys its MIRVs that can fall to earth at speeds of around Mach 14. The ABM SM3 missile is designed to kinetically kill ICBMs before they deploy their MIRVs. But can also be used against the MIRVs.

The SPY1D(v) is a very high power passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar. It can search for and track targets in low to medium orbits, even hypersonic Mach 20 targets. The (v) version has a completely updated digital back end specifically designed for countering ballistic missiles and their MIRVs. The digital backend means instead of just a few range gates, it now has 100s. These will continuously track an object, thereby verifying if its a real threat or not.

The newer SPY6 is a combined dual band active electronically scanned array (AESA). Within each transmitter-receiver module (TRM) there are in fact two independent radar systems, one operating in the S band and the other in the X band. The Aegis system will take this data and work out a missile intercept.

The AESA radar offers a significant number of advantages over previous radars when tracking objects. As each TRM is an individual radar their beam steering ability is 10s of times faster than a PESA’s signal (phase) delay circuits. It means they can scan an incredibly large volume of the sky in a much smaller amount of time. It also means the transmitted beam can be made much narrower. Thus targets can be better illuminated with higher resolution.

By coincidence the research and development in to ballistic missile defence has set a very good foundation for countering hypersonic missiles. The US SM3 and SM6, along with THAAD are more than capable of dealing with this threat.

In regards to plasma generation, the faster an object goes past Mach 7, the greater the amount is produced. A body operating in the atmosphere is affected by both a thermal build up as well as air pressure. Once a object hits Mach 5 a severe shock wave is generated, as it flies faster the shockwave gets stronger. This shock wave vibrates the air, but around Mach 7 the vibration is so severe the atomic bonds are broken and ionization occurs. The ionization generates a plasma, this will absorb any RF or blind optical sensors. In labs and within Tokamaks, by using electromagnets, you can manipulate the plasma and open windows, so that RF can pass through. Getting this to work on a hypersonic aircraft or missile will be incredibly hard to implement.

To conclude, all bodies traveling at Mach 7 or faster will generate plasma, the faster you go the stronger and more encapsulating the plasma will be. Below Mach 7 hypersonic bodies will still be subject to severe heat on all the leading edges. They will be able to operate both RF and optical sensors without hindrance.

Today’s ballistic missile defence radar systems will find and track hypersonic vehicles. The combat management system will be able to calculate the interception. Missile’s such as Aster 30, SM2, SM3 and SM6 have shown they can intercept hypersonic ballistic missile targets, so a hypersonic cruise missile or glide vehicle will be no different.


So to cut to the chase;
A Hypersonic missiles new name old ICBM et al
B Hypersonics at sea level is Sci-fi or Chinese/Soviet fake news

Meirion X

A Hypersonic warpon at 40km hight could travel a long way without much resistance in very low atmospheric pressure.


It is possible to make a hypersonic missile fly at near sea level heights, However, it’s range will be governed by the fuel consumption, plus how much fuel it’s carrying. Compared to flying above 50,000ft, the fuel consumption will be massive, as the engine tries to propel the missile through the much denser air. Furthermore, as the air is denser, the air resistance is higher, so the thermal load will be significantly higher. To cope with this the missile will need an ablative coating or active skin and leading edge cooling.

A missile like the Brahmos 2 is unlikely to fly at sea level anywhere near is purported speed of Mach 7. It is supposed to have a similar range to the previous version. But at low level it will be lucky to reach 50 miles. Whereas in a high semi ballistic arc it could get closer to 300 miles. Then dive in its target.


The new missile is a cruise missile. You’re writing about something else.

Meirion X

Even a supersonic cruise missile at 40,000ft, or 12km still faces substantial air pressure of about 20% of at ground level.

Phillip Johnson

2028-2030 is not soon. What ever happened to the interim ASM?

Tim Hirst

Bids are being evaluated at the moment.


Worth a small bet on HMS Glasgow going into service with VL- NSM in the Mk41s.


I’ll take that bet. If the new cruise missile is late, the ship(s) will sail with empty cells.


I will double whatever Ron’s offering. There is no such thing as vertical launch NSM. Vertical launch JSM is a real & different thing (related but different). NSM can’t physically fit in a mk41.


“The new City class frigates have been designed to take an unprecedented amount of hits and keep coming”

The Telegraph…


A HWT under the keel will stop just about anything.


Hits from what though? The press heavily underestimate the power of modern weaponry……..

Humpty Dumpty

Perseus only has a range of about 300km, which is absolutely pathetic for a ship-launched anti-ship missile. If fired from subs it might possibly be OK, but even then a longer ranged missile that can be fired from beyond the range of enemy ASW helicopters would make far more sense. As for an air-launched version, being 5m long an F-35 won’t be able to carry it internally, which totally defeats the purpose of having a stealthy aircraft. Who the hell designs these idiotic weapons???

Last edited 2 years ago by Humpty Dumpty

They aren’t expecting much from FCASW then…

Unless they have 2 versions with vastly different sizes of boster, I don’t see how they will achieve something with the sort of range desired, while keeping it air launchable (unless we’re talking about a plane the size of a C-130 or A400M or else a long-range bomber like the US have).

Because 300km from an 800kg (500kg discounting the payload) hypersonic cruise missile (like Perseus) is actually really good going.

I’d expect most hypersonic missiles to be the size of small ballistic missiles (because that’s the sort of energy input they require). And so I really think that we (or the US or somebody) will need to come up with a new VLS standard, larger than the mk41 to accommodate hypersonics.


I still say the RN would do well to purchase the latest upgraded variants of the tried and true Harpoon missile. If nothing else, this would be a very cheap way to boost the firepower of the Batch 2 River class (if those are upgunned as has been proposed) and the RAF’s P-8 Poseidon MRA1. I would imagine that Harpoon could even be fired from Wildcat and/or Merlin helicopters. Certainly the FCASW offers impressive capabilities, but also doubtless at a much higher price per unit than Harpoon.

Last edited 2 years ago by Will