The United States Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) released a video of the first live-fire test of the Raytheon Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2, intercepting a BQM-74 Chukar aerial target drone manufactured by Northrop. NAVSEA first mentioned the test on July 05, but the footage was just only released to the public last week.
ESSM Block 2 vertically launched (Source/ US Navy)
The ESSM is an evolved version of the existing Sea Sparrow missile system currently defending a wide variety of naval ships including aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, amphibious assault ships and other vessels against Russian and Chinese anti-ship missiles and other surface and short-range airborne threats.
The physical changes between the Block I and Block II ESSM are minimal but the tactical impact that the Block II’s new guidance section will have will be significant. The range will likely stay about the same on paper, about 30-45 miles depending on the source, but adjusted flight profiles due to the missile’s new terminal guidance system may allow for longer, more efficient engagements (Source/ US NAVY/ The Drive)
The July test was the first ESSM launch to use the new Block 2 active guidance seeker-head. ESSM Block 2 employs both semi-active and active guidance to meet current and anticipated future threats, said a July 06 PEO IWS Public Affairs news release. The test follows two successful tests in June 2017 and is the first in a series of live fire tests that will lead to the ESSM Block 2 missile entering series production in the near term.
“This flight test is critical to demonstrating the technology for the ESSM Block 2,” said Capt. Bruce Schuette, project manager for the NATO Seasparrow Project. “I am very proud of the entire NATO Seasparrow Project Team, from our industry partners to our field activities and test facilities, for all the extensive work that went into making this event a success.”
ESSM fire launch (Source/ US Navy)
According to PEO IWS Public Affairs, the NATO Seasparrow Project is an international effort of 12 nations consisting of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States. Each nation contributes to engineering, development, production, and sustainment of the missiles and supporting equipment.
Unclassified Video: NAVSEA ESSM Block 2 missile test
Warrior Maven spoke with unnamed Raytheon and Naval officials who described how the advanced technology is a game-changer for NATO:
“The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.
Block 2 relieves the missile from the requirement of having to use a lot of illuminator guidance from the ship as a short-range self-defense, senior Navy officials have said.
A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target, Raytheon weapons developers have explained. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon official added.
The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance (game-changing).
The so-called kinematic or guidance improvements of the Block 2 missile give it an improved ability to counter maneuvering threats, Navy and Raytheon officials said.
ESSM Block 2 is being jointly acquired by the U.S. and a number of allied countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey. All these countries signed an ESSM Block 2 Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, designed to solidify the developmental path for the missile system through its next phase.”
Warrior Maven also mentions the weapon is expected to be fully operational on naval vessels by 2020, which coincides with a dated PEO IWS Public Affairs powerpoint that said “FY 20: IOC (Initial operational capability).” In other words, weapon developers are working jointly with NATO allies to guarantee the weapon is operational across the alliance of countries’ naval fleets by 2020.
While the news of new high-tech missiles set for deployment across all of NATO’s naval fleets by 2020 to counter Russia and China might seem dull, one must remember the world is on an elevated trend of the 53.5 Year War Cycle that will not peak until mid-2020/2030. With that in mind, the missiles now make sense; NATO is preparing for war.