Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Distributed Lethality Concept Seeks to Banish Defensive Mindset Encrusting US Navy


(Photo : US Navy) ERAM launch from a US Navy destroyer.

The revolutionary naval warfighting concept called "Distributed Lethality" adopted by the U.S. Navy seeks to redress the decline in the number of surface combatants forecast over the next decade by arming most of its surface ships not classified as warships with anti-ship missiles.

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Equally important, this new concept intends to erase the defensive mentality that diminishes the offensive mindset of the Navy because of its 15 year involvement in the war on terror, and the demise of the Soviet Union that all but banished the need to fight naval battles at long range.

Distributed Lethality seeks to expand the Navy's offensive sea control capabilities and operations to severely threaten the People's Liberation Army Navy and the Russian Navy by dispersing its offensive firepower over more ships and other assets.

Apparently originated by Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, distributed lethality also intends to move the Navy back towards an offensive mindset by embracing dispersion and long-range combat.

"As I reviewed the requirements for our surface ships, we had a tendency to move away from offensive capability -- or what I would refer to as sea control capability -- to more defensive capability, which is defending those power projection assets.

"And I think that was a natural evolution that we executed in the wake of the Cold War in the wake of the wars that we were involved in Iraq and Afghanistan."

He asked the question, "If we have been concentrating by design the lethality of our Navy into the flight decks of our aircraft carriers, are we simplifying the problem for our adversaries and how do we get after that? How do we complicate the problem for our adversaries?"

The answer by Rowden and his staff was the Navy should disperse the offensive capabilities of the surface fleet so that almost every vessel in the fleet can attack enemy warships at long-range.

"What we need to do is distribute the lethality of our Navy and make all of our Navy more lethal, not just surface ships but submarines and aircraft across the broad spectrum that we operate," said Adm. Rowden.

"We're not going to go buy a new Navy, we have a great Navy right now, but are there things we can do with the weapons and the weapons systems in order to get offensive capability into our ships in order to hold our potential adversaries at risk at range."

Key weapons in realizing Distributed Lethality will be the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), an aircraft launched, stealthy anti-ship cruise missile the Navy might adopt for its warships, and the RIM-174 Standard Extended Range Active Missile (ERAM), or Standard Missile 6 (SM-6), originally a surface-to-air missile that's being transformed into a long-range anti-ship missile.

"Could we modify it (SM-6) to make it an anti-ship weapon as well because it had an active seeker it.' And so we went to work on that," explained Adm. Rowden.

The result was a dual-capable weapon that far out-ranged any currently installed anti-ship weapon onboard a U.S. Navy surface warships.

The SM-6 "has a range that is well beyond the range of missiles we had in the inventory with respect to the anti-ship cruise missiles," said Adm. Rowden.

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