Armchair admirals count guns and missile launchers, but seagoing naval men and women know the importance of reliable and effective decoys and countermeasures that can react instantaneously to meet incoming threats.
There is a wide variety of off-board systems that can be launched to confuse, seduce, distract, or disable threats in the air, on the surface, and under the sea. Together with kinetic weapons, they provide a layered defense.
Soft kill will in many cases offer a both sufficient and more balanced response to a given threat, and when used intelligently, it reduces the consumption of hard kill effectors like surface to air missiles.
Today’s sophisticated combat management systems are integrated with electronic warfare and other sensors to determine threats and calculate appropriate responses. Sometimes that will involve engaging with missiles or guns for air or surface targets, and torpedoes for submarines, but it might also include “soft kill” methods, which are generally less costly to employ. Soft kill can refer to onboard electronic jamming, but also includes rockets and mortars that can seduce, distract or confuse incoming missile or torpedoes.
Soft kill doesn’t replace kinetic defensive systems, but rather enhances a ship’s layered defenses, and often works in concert, such as simultaneously launching chaff and engaging with a close-in weapon system like Phalanx. Soft kill will in many cases offer a both sufficient and more balanced response to a given threat, and when used intelligently, it reduces the consumption of hard kill effectors like surface to air missiles. Using high end effectors mainly for high end threats will help to maintain the operational capabilities and hence operational deployment for longer time.
Classes of ship may have a standard fit when there are little variations on requirements. Ideally a launcher system should be positioned on the platform optimizing firing arcs, minimizing interference with other weapons and sensors.
While the rounds may be supplied by different manufacturers, they can be made to standard sizes and share a common launch system. Interoperability is crucially important.
To optimize capability maximum versatility is required; being able to fire multiple types of rounds enables that versatility and flexibility, and being able to do that with one launcher reduces complexity and cost.
Almost all conflicts are fought by coalitions of nations, so the ability to interoperate with decoys is a significant force multiplier, enabling greater flexibility to the maritime commander, as well as sustainability and a common understanding of tactics techniques and procedures.
The Terma C-Guard self-defense system is an example of a launch system that can fire standard NATO 130mm rounds for use against air, surface and undersea targets.
“C-Guard offers full-automatic 360-degree protection of naval platforms against simultaneous coordinated multi-threat and multi-directional attacks from both missiles and torpedoes through seduction, distraction and confusion,” says Lars Veis Laursen, director of naval sales for the Danish defense company Terma. “C-Guard’s mechanical launcher design has no moving parts and relies on widely accessible and proven 130mm NATO decoys to guarantee high reliability, availability and lowest total cost of ownership.”
A typical installation would include a control group along with fore and aft launcher groups. The control group has its own computer as well as a control unit, and is integrated with the ship’s combat management system. The launcher groups include an interface unit as well as a group of launcher tubes – typically 12 – which are aimed away from the ship.
Terma’s C-Guard maintains a threat list and is designed to defeat coordinated attacks with multiple missiles and torpedoes. C-Guard calculates a firing solution for up to four threats at a time.
The launchers can be preloaded with similar rounds, or some assortment of rounds, depending on the threat. To optimize capability maximum versatility is required; being able to fire multiple types of rounds enables that versatility and flexibility, and being able to do that with one launcher reduces complexity and cost. The selection of rounds can be determined by the threat as well as platform sensors, such as radar, ESM, link, or visual, for example. Sensor data is assimilated into a command system to conduct threat evaluation and weapon allocation (TEWA) and designated to the decoy launching system to employ the most effective decoy.
According to Laursen, Terma’s C-Guard can be employed in an automatic, semi-automatic, or manual mode. “In the automatic mode, the firing sequence is initiated automatically, but allows the operator to override the system and veto the activation. Automatic firing is used for anti-missile threats. In the semi-automatic mode, the operator may select one of the proposals and initiate its firing sequence. In the manual mode, the operator selects and fires decoys manually. These modes can be used for both anti-missile and anti-torpedo targets.”
C-Guard identifies the specific round type as it is loaded into a launch tube and it will also detect when a decoy is launched successfully. It means that C-Guard always know exactly which rounds are loaded and available in which tubes, hence providing correct information needed to make the right decision.
The automatic mode provides a quick-reaction capability. But in a high-intensity threat environment, Laursen says the maneuvering of the ship relative to the wind and threat axis is also critical.
The MK 245 GIANT decoy deploys independently fired submunitions at specified time intervals that burst in the air at increasing distances from the ship to create a large IR signature cloud.
Laursen says state-of-the-art systems available today constantly evaluate and prioritize all threats to create a multi-layered 360-degree defense. For example, he says, Terma’s C-Guard maintains a threat list and is designed to defeat coordinated attacks with multiple missiles and torpedoes. C-Guard calculates a firing solution for up to four threats at a time. After launching decoys to counter these threats, the system calculates other firing solutions to counter additional threats.
Laursen says systems like C-Guard, which do not require a proprietary decoy ammunition, can utilize any of the NATO standard 130mm soft kill rounds.
Trainable launchers can place a round along the threat access, but fixed launchers, with tubes aimed along different bearings, still offer good coverage and have no moving parts, which means less maintenance for the weather deck launchers.
There are many different rounds, made to address specific threats. Rheinmetall’s Bullfighter has a combined RF and IR payload to defend against radar and heat seeking anti-ship missiles. NATO Sea Gnat decoys, made by Chemring, can have a reduced mortar charge to be launched from smaller platforms. But they can also be quite sophisticated. The MK 245 GIANT decoy deploys independently fired submunitions at specified time intervals that burst in the air at increasing distances from the ship to create a large IR signature cloud. The DCNS Canto V8 mortar is used against torpedoes by overwhelming the torpedo’s sonar. Qinetiq’s Loki Rocket can jam or confuse torpedoes.
Loadout depends on many factors, such as the type of threat, weather conditions, tactics used, ability of weapons and sensors, ability of the operators, positioning of decoys, and the types of decoys.