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FFG(X)

Cordy

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Fincantieri win the USN competition for the new frigate, 7,400t ship, HED propulsion, 16/17 knots cruise, 6,000 nm range ship, the GD/Navantia F100/Hobart variant, the Austal Independence LCS variant and unknown Ingalls design, they never released any info, lost out.

USN budgeting $1,281 million for first ship and $781 million for follow on nine ships.

 

donnage99

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this is one way to get to that 355 ship number. Build a larger than usual frigate to justify building less destroyers. Don't know if that's a good thing. In the end, I'm glad it's chosen. The LCS designs are fatally flawed and any modifications look straight up awkward. There's a reason Lockheed just straight up gave up.
 

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this is one way to get to that 355 ship number. Build a larger than usual frigate to justify building less destroyers. Don't know if that's a good thing. In the end, I'm glad it's chosen. The LCS designs are fatally flawed and any modifications look straight up awkward. There's a reason Lockheed just straight up gave up.
Lockheed gave up probably because they saw that they could make nearly as much money off of the program without pretty much any risk if they just partnered with one the design teams instead of competing.

Having said that, I do not view this as being competition to the destroyer fleet. We've added missions to the destroyer fleet and have stretched it out. This is a recognition that we need a fairly capable surface combatant to do a lot many tasks that the destroyers currently do but more affordably both in terms of buying and operating. Qualitatively this is going to be right up there with our current destroyers (present) though it lacks their capacity. If it falls short, we can get a Flight II that ups that capability. It has room and growth margin to deliver on that. We should stick with 2 DDG-51's in the budget and strive to get 3. LSC likewise needs to come in once all these types are fielded or de-risked. We can't get to 320 leave aside 350 or more by buying more destroyers and LSC's. Not unles we shed carriers and/or the Columbia class. And we need numbers given our global footprint and given how fast China is building its fleet. If they can actually field a sub $1 Billion FFG(X) then we can strive to buy 3-4 each year and build up the fleet. Right now the only ship in the fleet that can deliver that numerical capability is the LCS and we aren't going to be able to deploy it like we would the FFG(X) or destroyer etc. This thing has 32 strike length MK41s and 16 topside launchers for NSM's. That's a fairly substantial leap compared to the LCS which would have been the alternative to it in terms of building up the SSC fleet.

Its assuring to see that the small surface combatant side of the Navy is getting more capable and is adding capacity. An all LCS SSC fleet made next to no sense given how threats have evolved between when that program was initiated and now. Hopefully, sometime in the 2030's we can field a small SSC in the 4-5K ton range that has similar level of technology and capability but is smaller with less capacity.
 
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Moose

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Lockheed got out for more than one reason, but they had already won because the Navy baselined their combat system. Gun to their head, most of LM's management would probably admit they prefer doing that work to running a full shipbuilding program.
 

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It’s a solid choice. I love the propulsion system-quiet an efficient. Serious combat/radar/com system almost on the level of an old Burke. 12 MW installed power with room to grow. A little lite on Mk41 but a lot of RAM and NSM. About the only criticism is no hull sonar and no mk32s, but it will probably be good enough.
 

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It’s a solid choice. I love the propulsion system-quiet an efficient. Serious combat/radar/com system almost on the level of an old Burke. 12 MW installed power with room to grow. A little lite on Mk41 but a lot of RAM and NSM. About the only criticism is no hull sonar and no mk32s, but it will probably be good enough.
The hull sonar on the FFG-7s was pretty terrible, and the other option is probably the pretty expensive SQS-53, which we already have in the fleet in huge numbers on the DDGs. So I can see why having the option between an active VDS and the passive tail may be good enough.

I honestly don't see the value of OTS lightweight torpedoes these days. If you're in position to use them, the target sub probably has you dead to rights with a heavyweight torpedo. Much better to drop on the sub from a helo before it's in a position to shoot back. And they have VLA as a pretty simple growth option if they need it.
 

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It’s probably not crucial, but if you’re caught flat footed you can at least force a boat to cut its wires.
 

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It’s a solid choice. I love the propulsion system-quiet an efficient. Serious combat/radar/com system almost on the level of an old Burke. 12 MW installed power with room to grow. A little lite on Mk41 but a lot of RAM and NSM. About the only criticism is no hull sonar and no mk32s, but it will probably be good enough.
The hull sonar on the FFG-7s was pretty terrible, and the other option is probably the pretty expensive SQS-53, which we already have in the fleet in huge numbers on the DDGs. So I can see why having the option between an active VDS and the passive tail may be good enough.

I honestly don't see the value of OTS lightweight torpedoes these days. If you're in position to use them, the target sub probably has you dead to rights with a heavyweight torpedo. Much better to drop on the sub from a helo before it's in a position to shoot back. And they have VLA as a pretty simple growth option if they need it.

Always wondered if those torpedoes could be used to kill incoming torpedoes. They seem completely useless for anything else.
 

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Always wondered if those torpedoes could be used to kill incoming torpedoes. They seem completely useless for anything else.
They tried that. Not a roaring success, apparently.


The enduring appeal of keeping Mk32 tubes on combatants is mainly that it might have some last-ditch value, as Josh suggested, and it doesn't cost very much. The launchers are compact and mechanically simple, especially if you go to fixed tubes. And they use the same magazines as the helicopter torpedoes -- just strip off the parachute pack and you're good to go.
 

uk 75

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Back in the Cold War days the USN had a pretty clear line up to counter the Soviet Navy as almost its sole opponent.
What will the new line up comprise and is it aimed at taking on Russia and China in general war as well as Iran and North Korea?
 

sferrin

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Always wondered if those torpedoes could be used to kill incoming torpedoes. They seem completely useless for anything else.
They tried that. Not a roaring success, apparently.

Completely different system.
 

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Always wondered if those torpedoes could be used to kill incoming torpedoes. They seem completely useless for anything else.
They tried that. Not a roaring success, apparently.

Completely different system.
Oops. Sorry. There was a time that Mk32s started showing up on aircraft carriers, which was apparently some sort of interim SSTD, but they went away pretty quickly.
 

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Always wondered if those torpedoes could be used to kill incoming torpedoes. They seem completely useless for anything else.
They tried that. Not a roaring success, apparently.

Completely different system.
Yes, but the only one with any anti torpedo capability. Mk54 has none. I agree the Mk32 launcher is of marginal value, but I would hate to be inside minimum ASROC range and have nothing to shoot back with. It seems like a possibility against D/Es in particularly hard sonar environments like the Persian Gulf or Baltic Sea and it isn't particularly expensive in weight, space, or cost. But it is true that if you're firing a mk54 over the side you're probably already on the receiving end of a heavyweight torpedo yourself.
 

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The Russian Paket-NK LW torpedo system is supposed to be dual-role ASW & hard-kill torpedo defence (replacing the UDAV-1 rocket launcher in the latter capacity, I guess). It uses dedicated rounds for both roles, though.
 

bring_it_on

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It’s a solid choice. I love the propulsion system-quiet an efficient. Serious combat/radar/com system almost on the level of an old Burke. 12 MW installed power with room to grow. A little lite on Mk41 but a lot of RAM and NSM. About the only criticism is no hull sonar and no mk32s, but it will probably be good enough.
I remember them saying that the hull sonar choice was left to the OEM and they chose the current set up. I think between the VLS, and NSM launchers this is really good capacity for a Frigate for a Navy that has a substantial Destroyer force, and plans on having medium and large unmanned surface vessels act as magazine enhancers for the fleet. A Flight II with more power generation, a powerful DEW and perhaps more powerful radar can be put on contract by the mid 2020's. The ship has the size, electrical power and growth margin to accommodate a fair bit of growth so we should be good with the basic design for at least a couple of iterations.

Now that they've used a parent design here, they can focus resources in designing LSC and the unmanned fleet. Maybe look to move it a bit to the left.
 
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TomS

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I remember them saying that the hull sonar choice was left to the OEM and they chose the current set up.
The RFP gave bidders a choice between an LF hull sonar or the SQS-62 VDS. Everything else in the combat system was pretty tightly specified. I think about the only options were whether or not to include torpedoes (SVTT is an objective requirement) and 8 or 16 AShMs (8 is threshold, 16 is objective).
 

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...I think between the VLS, and NSM launchers this is really good capacity for a Frigate for a Navy that has a substantial Destroyer force...
I don't think we disagree broadly, but I think it is worth noting the USN likely won't SLEP its Flight 1/2 Burkes. So the FFG(X) will be delivered right around when when the first Burke is being retired, and won't be available for some time after that. Realistically with the loss of 27 early Burke types, FFG(X) will struggle to replace them at a 1:1 rate. Which is probably why the USN specified they have a fairly robust AAW system that included SAMs beyond ESSM.
 

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...I think between the VLS, and NSM launchers this is really good capacity for a Frigate for a Navy that has a substantial Destroyer force...
I don't think we disagree broadly, but I think it is worth noting the USN likely won't SLEP its Flight 1/2 Burkes. So the FFG(X) will be delivered right around when when the first Burke is being retired, and won't be available for some time after that. Realistically with the loss of 27 early Burke types, FFG(X) will struggle to replace them at a 1:1 rate. Which is probably why the USN specified they have a fairly robust AAW system that included SAMs beyond ESSM.
I would almost separate, from the FFG decision, the destroyer and cruiser retirement projections and the decision whether to SLEP them or not. The FFG(X) is essentially a reconfiguration of the Small Surface Combatant fleet in the USN following a realization that an all LCS SSC fleet was unacceptable given the threat environment. If you look at the Frigates, particularly the European Frigates like the FREMM, or the Type-26, the VLS and displacements are pretty much in line with what the Navy got.

The destroyer situation can be changed if the Congress and the Navy wants it. We have a destroyer program and can buy at 3 a year while instituting a mix of new builds and SLEP's. This can go on concurrently with the FFG(X) purchase through this decade and into the next one as the DDG-51 rolls into a new LSC. But that is budget dependent. I think the USN is slowly coming to a realization that with the Columbia program, and a large unmanned fleet bill coming up (not to mention the Ford class carriers and recapitalizing the air-wing for the future fight) unless it buys its combatants at a significantly lower price the size of the Navy will struggle to get much beyond 300 ships in the long term with retirements factored in. I suspect by 2030 we will probably all have 20 Frigates on order with probably more to come. Yes this does not have the VLS capacity of the Flight I or II Burke's but those cannot be bought new for under a Billion and the Navy is also looking at a distributed footprint.

You're right though, the Navy probably had the outgoing combatants in mind when it established a baseline for the FFGX combat capability. I remember when early on in the program there was a talk that they may ask for no more than 16 VLS capacity which would have favored the smaller, lighter LCS based designs. Good thing they upped it to 32. Perhaps a Flt II FFGX may grow that to 48 cells.

My only disappointment is the NSM. It is probably a capable missile for what it is designed for but picking a missile, off the shelf, that is already outsticked by your adversary in the Pacific was probably not a smart choice given this ship won't deploy till the end of the decade. Hopefully something comes out of the US-Norwegian THOR-ER program but in the 2030's the NSM's in the Pacific probably won't be bothering the Chinese all that much.
 
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Dilandu

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My only disappointment is the NSM. It is probably a capable missile for what it is designed for but picking a missile, off the shelf, that is already outsticked by your adversary in the Pacific was probably not a smart choice given this ship won't deploy till the end of the decade. Hopefully something comes out of the US-Norwegian THOR-ER program but in the 2030's the NSM's in the Pacific probably won't be bothering the Chinese all that much.
I wouldn't underestimate the NSM. This missile was specifically designed to operate in complex coastal conditions, with small islands, islets, rocks and patch of ground between it and target. While fjords of Norway doesn't seems to be close to South Asian waters, in fact, from the missile point of view, the conditions are quite similar - the ability to fly overland, seek targets on complex background, provide full-passive approach and terminal maneuvering to avoid AA fire are invaluable.
 

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The NSM isn’t severely outgunned by Chinese topside equivalents. If you’re comparing it to Strike length VLS types, then sure. There’s enough room and weight reserved that something larger could be installed amid ship when it’s available. For now it was better to go with something in production that we know worked.
 

Dilandu

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The NSM isn’t severely outgunned by Chinese topside equivalents. If you’re comparing it to Strike length VLS types, then sure. There’s enough room and weight reserved that something larger could be installed amid ship when it’s available. For now it was better to go with something in production that we know worked.
I'd say, that NSM seems to be the perfect weapon for LCS and frigates, who are most likely to get in missile duel with Chinese missile boats and corvettes in island chains of Southeast Asia.

And for long-range ocean engagements, USN now have LRASM, improved Tomahawk's with anti-ship capabilities, and SM-6 as last resort supersonic self-defense weapon.

Basically the only thing USN lacks is supersonic sea-skimmer) But, well, Japanese and Taiwanese seems to have some, so it could be easily remedied.
 

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On another board people expressed a desire for LRASM as the anti surface weapon. But the fact is LRASM doesn't have many advantages in surface launch compared to NSM, plus 2.5 x the weight. LRASM's actual explosive payload is ~110kg/240lbs AFX-757 - the rest of the nominally 1000lb warhead is titanium casing for penetration, something not remotely needed against a modern surface combatant. It's range when air launched is over 200nm / 300km, but I suspect rocket boosting it from a surface ship drops that way down. Also, LRASM flies a medium altitude profile to hunt for RF emissions, which means unlike full sea skimmers it would have to burn a lot of fuel climbing to altitude or use a much larger booster. I think for all these reasons surface launched LRASM wasn't that popular with the USN, along with the fact that SM-6 could engage surface targets at probably greater range for not much more money. And the SM-6 has AA and ABM uses on top of that so you're not occupying a cell with a single use weapon.
 

Dilandu

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But the fact is LRASM doesn't have many advantages in surface launch compared to NSM, plus 2.5 x the weight.
Well, it have better range and probably more stealthy, but for short-range actions in Indonesia or Philippines archipelago, the NSM, I think, is much more suitable weapon. Also, it's cheaper and more compact than LRASM.
 

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My only disappointment is the NSM. It is probably a capable missile for what it is designed for but picking a missile, off the shelf, that is already outsticked by your adversary in the Pacific was probably not a smart choice given this ship won't deploy till the end of the decade. Hopefully something comes out of the US-Norwegian THOR-ER program but in the 2030's the NSM's in the Pacific probably won't be bothering the Chinese all that much.
I wouldn't underestimate the NSM. This missile was specifically designed to operate in complex coastal conditions, with small islands, islets, rocks and patch of ground between it and target. While fjords of Norway doesn't seems to be close to South Asian waters, in fact, from the missile point of view, the conditions are quite similar - the ability to fly overland, seek targets on complex background, provide full-passive approach and terminal maneuvering to avoid AA fire are invaluable.
I am not underestimating its capability. I am saying is that capable as it is, it lacks the type of range that is required in the Pacific (IMO) especially given the fact that we are likely to be outnumbered in that region compared to Chinese surface combatants.

Kongsberg/Raytheon could start by making it a networked weapon like its JSM cousin. That should permit slightly longer ranged engagements.

The NSM isn’t severely outgunned by Chinese topside equivalents. If you’re comparing it to Strike length VLS types, then sure. There’s enough room and weight reserved that something larger could be installed amid ship when it’s available. For now it was better to go with something in production that we know worked.
It seems that the Chinese are upgrading their topside anti-ship weapons. I agree with the NSM decision on the LCS fleet. It was a quick and easy way to field 6,8 or 10 LCS equipped with NSM's in the early 2020's. However, the FFG(X) won't actually deploy for at least another 10 years. That is a decade to have developed something with longer range or more effectiveness. The FFG(X) isn't limited in terms of what it can carry topside. A heavier or larger weapon can probably be easily accommodated. Hopefully the THOR-ER demonstrations show some promise and Kongsberg can get something out of it in terms of a weapons program. I don't think the USN has the will to fund a new topside weapon development program.
 
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Dilandu

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I am saying is that capable as it is, it lacks the type of range that is required in the Pacific (IMO) especially given the fact that we are likely to be outnumbered in that region compared to Chinese surface combatants.
Pacific is a broad therms. If you are thinking about fighting at the center of Pacific - yes, the NSM lack the range. But if the goal is to support operation near Philippine and Indonesian islands, capturing Chinese bases and preventing Chinese from landing troops - NSM is just more practical.
 

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I mention the Pacific in the broader context of where the US Navy has an interest in and what possible areas it could encounter resistance from the ever growing Chinese naval presence over the next couple of decades. I'm sure when they field a fleet of 400, they'll like to venture out beyond where they currently operate with density. I think one thing to the Navy's credit is likely that they've packed some substantial anti-surface warfare capability requirements into the SM-6 1B (faster, longer ranged, and a new warhead and guidance improvements). That could come in provide an interesting capability that smaller enemy combatants may have a tough time defending against.

It's range when air launched is over 200nm / 300km, but I suspect rocket boosting it from a surface ship drops that way down.
A lot of publications keep referencing that range figure for the LRASM because it was originally what DARPA was looking for in terms of a threshold capability. LRASM, depending upon the way it is utilized, is going to be considerably better than that original DARPA requirement. I mean it starts off sa a 900+ km weapon so even with a different payload and an anti-ship role optimized trajectory you are probably still looking at a 300 nm air-launched capability. It should out range the NSM both because of its performance but because it is networked and can utilize third party data.
 
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I can't speak to range; I just know it is acknowledged to be "over 200nm" and less than AGM-158B. It retains the AGM-158 warhead (which is sub optimal for this role) and adds a number of sensors to supply the targeting information needed. Also I don't think the original weapon had LOS and satellite datalinks like LRASM. So the max range is very much an open question. The data link will help with OTH targeting however; perhaps later marks of NSM will add that feature. I believe JSM was supposed to.
 

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Will the frigate not also have Hellfire longbow missiles on board?
 

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I mention the Pacific in the broader context of where the US Navy has an interest in and what possible areas it could encounter resistance from the ever growing Chinese naval presence over the next couple of decades. I'm sure when they field a fleet of 400, they'll like to venture out beyond where they currently operate with density. I think one thing to the Navy's credit is likely that they've packed some substantial anti-surface warfare capability requirements into the SM-6 1B (faster, longer ranged, and a new warhead and guidance improvements). That could come in provide an interesting capability that smaller enemy combatants may have a tough time defending against.

It's range when air launched is over 200nm / 300km, but I suspect rocket boosting it from a surface ship drops that way down.
A lot of publications keep referencing that range figure for the LRASM because it was originally what DARPA was looking for in terms of a threshold capability. LRASM, depending upon the way it is utilized, is going to be considerably better than that original DARPA requirement. I mean it starts off sa a 900+ km weapon so even with a different payload and an anti-ship role optimized trajectory you are probably still looking at a 300 nm air-launched capability. It should out range the NSM both because of its performance but because it is networked and can utilize third party data.
I would imagine a ramjet in the 2000lb class would be feasible like the XASM-3 or FCASW.
 

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I don't think the original weapon had LOS and satellite datalinks like LRASM. So the max range is very much an open question. The data link will help with OTH targeting however; perhaps later marks of NSM will add that feature. I believe JSM was supposed to.
What we know is that the LRASM meets the USN's lethality requirements for the intended target set, otherwise, given the increased buy someone would have initiated a new warhead effort. The networked NSM has been floated by Kongsberg in the past and JSM data-link commonality has been cited. No timelines though, and no clear indication on whether it is funded. They have in the past also indicated that with a networked NSM, and higher altitude flight profiles, extended range is possible.

With Raytheon supporting the weapon for the US Navy, perhaps it would be a good idea to leverage the investments into the JSOW networking to develop commonality. But again, dramatic increases in range are probably not going to happen.

This is where I feel the THOR-ER becomes interesting. If they can develop a 350 km high supersonic or even hypersonic weapon that can be launched top side, I think that will be a huge leap in capability. Given the US and Norwegian Frigate fleet (20, or maybe even 30 eventual vessels in the US alone) this could be a nice upgrade to the NSM in the 2030's.

 

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Will the frigate not also have Hellfire longbow missiles on board?
Not in the current configuration. That's for the LCS surface warfare module and whichever LCSs were to be designed/redesignated as FFs (not sure if that is proceeding now that FFG(X) is going ahead).
 

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Speaking of weapons, why did the FFG(X) get saddled with just a 57mm gun when it would have made more sense to mount either a 76mm or even a 5 inch gun?
 

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Will the frigate not also have Hellfire longbow missiles on board?
Not in the current configuration. That's for the LCS surface warfare module and whichever LCSs were to be designed/redesignated as FFs (not sure if that is proceeding now that FFG(X) is going ahead).
The FFG(X) designs were required to have weight margins and 600 kW of power reserve onboard for a future directed-energy-weapon so that coupled with the ALAMO is probably why the USN did not consider the LCSs surface warfare module.
 

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TomS

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Speaking of weapons, why did the FFG(X) get saddled with just a 57mm gun when it would have made more sense to mount either a 76mm or even a 5 inch gun?
76mm isn't in inventory anywhere in the USN now that the FFG-7s are gone. And given the money being spent on guided 57mm rounds (Alamo) it wouldn't make sense to reintroduce an additional gun caliber.

5-inch would just be too big and frankly is a much worse weapon for the missions the FFGs will be doing. You need a gun to engage small boats, small drones, etc. A 5-incher just isn't ideal for that. Too slow-firing and limited in ammo capacity. For things where 5-inchnl guns might be needed (NGFS in the unlikely event, mainly) there are lots already at sea in the DDGs and CGs.
 

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It seems likely the USN thought that the 57mm was better for missile and small boat defense and that the naval gunfire mission was no longer relevant. They also might have wanted to preserve weight and space margins for later DEW installations, or perhaps just were being cheap. Some combination of all three. But as noted above, only 5" and 57mm are in inventory now and they weren't going to adopt a new caliber.

As for surface warfare - I personally never believed that module was especially necessary. The 57mm alone seemed more than adequate. On the FFG9(x), anything even moderately sized could be an NSM target and anything too small for that could eat a RAM blk2, so further focus on small targets outside the 57mm seems especially pointless to me.
 

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I don't think the original weapon had LOS and satellite datalinks like LRASM. So the max range is very much an open question. The data link will help with OTH targeting however; perhaps later marks of NSM will add that feature. I believe JSM was supposed to.
What we know is that the LRASM meets the USN's lethality requirements for the intended target set, otherwise, given the increased buy someone would have initiated a new warhead effort.
JASSM's warhead is a 1,000lb penetrating warhead. If that wasn't good enough for hitting a ship I'd be astonished.

 

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It probably could penetrate most battleship's main belt, historically. My point is that against a modern day thin skinned escort, penetrating 2 meters of steel reinforced concrete is basically a lot of dead weight. So the warhead will be completely effective at penetrating the target but not have a lot of bang for the weight. DARPA kept the warhead as a time and cost saver, and it was retained when it became a project of record for the same reason. But it is a sub optimal use of nearly half the launch weight of the missile in this application.
 
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