Navy Tests Homing Rockets to Take Out Small Boat Swarms
CREDIT: Office of Naval Research
Tomorrow's naval battles may feature swarms of small boats or even sea drones attacking expensive warships. In defense, the U.S. Navy has come up with a helicopter-fired rocket capable of homing in on even the smallest floating targets without human guidance. Such rockets successfully struck two high-speed-boat targets in tests earlier this month.
Many missiles or smart bombs in the U.S. military's arsenal require laser guidance by human pilots to accurately strike their targets on land or sea. By contrast, infrared imaging allows modified rockets to identify and compute targets on their own after being fired. That would allow Navy helicopter pilots to fire a swarm of such unguided rockets at many small-boat threats deployed by terrorists, pirates or enemy navies.
"It's a fire-and-forget weapon," said Ken Heeke, a program officer at the Office of Naval Research for the Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker. "No longer do you have to continue to monitor the target after you've fired the weapon. You can move on to the next threat with the assurance that the rocket will hit the target."
Two of the modified Hydra-70 rockets were fired from a shore-based launcher during the tests Nov. 3 near Point Mugu, Calif. One of the rockets carried an explosive warhead.
Once airborne, the rockets used their onboard-imaging infrared seekers to identify their intended targets among a small swarm of five small boats that were maneuvering at sea. They then struck and eliminated two of the targets.
The latest tests came as part of the Medusa Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, an effort backed by both the U.S. Navy and South Korea.
Small boats have historically proven capable of posing a serious threat to larger ships, since navies began using fast torpedo boats. More recently, the U.S. Navy has worried about threats from fast attack boats deployed by countries such as Iran, as well as terrorist attacks such as the one that crippled the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
If the rocket tests go well, the U.S. Navy may get an effective anti-boat weapon without having to wait on its ship-mounted raygun lasers.