The NavGuard (EL/M-2222S) Naval Self Protection System from IAI Elta mounted on the mast of a German vessel undergoing NATO testing. Photo: Elta Systems
Fighting modern warfare doesn’t mean you face the most sophisticated weapons or strongest enemies. In fact, combat in asymmetric warfare means facing an illusive enemy that, sometime can be equipped with superior weapons, challenging even the strongest armor and most sophisticated platforms. This article addresses countermeasures to a different type of threat – guided missiles fired from the coast, which are becoming relevant in unsecured littorals. Countermeasures used against such threats employ active or passive means. Defense-Update reports from IMDEX.
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The attack on USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 demonstrated the vulnerability of blue-water naval vessels to asymmetric threats. Attacks by swarms of small boats are considered an imminent threat to military vessels, in the Persian Gulf, as well as in other littoral hotspots. But as many navies operating in littorals have realized, precision guided missiles are not less threatening. In fact, the risk of such attacks have caused a number navies facing such perils to avoid presence in certain littoral areas considered too risky. Instead, they prefer to maintain their patrols at safe stand-off distance from the shore, or minimize missions into riverines without the coverage of supporting air or land forces.
While ‘pocket’ anti-ship missiles such as the C-701 are already shipping from Iran to terror groups in the Middle East, simpler anti-tank guided missiles like the TOW II (3+ km range) or KORNET (5 km range) fired from shore pose a significant risk to vessels in their effective range – particularly small patrol boats that patrol close to the coastline or larger vessels passing close to the shore. These vessels are particularly vulnerable when such missiles hit certain weak points.
Each MASS decoy launcher stores 32 countermeasure decoys.
Active protection systems (APS) used on main battle tanks are often too violent for naval vessels. Moreover, ‘Soft Kill’ smart countermeasures are proven relatively effective against most types of guided missiles, when employed in the proper methodology and in time to defeat the threat.
A different system currently under development at IAI ELTA is designed to protection small boats. The core of the system is the new NAVGUARD self-protection system, employing a lightweight four-panel radar based on advanced digital phased array antennae technology. The company is unveiling the system at the IMDEX Asia event in Singapore this week. The radar performs automatic detection, classification and verification of threats, in single or multiple threat scenarios. It is capable of detecting small incoming guided missiles, such as MILAN, SAGGER or FAGOTT, and thus closes a vulnerability gap when it comes to protecting vessels in littoral zones. It can operate independently of all other systems on-board, maintaining full alert to incoming threat at all time. Providing Missile Approach Warning (MAW) the radar triggers various response systems, such as smoke dispensers, chaff or flares. The whole NAVGUARD system can be mounted around the main mast, just below the vessel’s navigation radar. The lightweight system comprising four phased array antennae, main electronic box and two to four countermeasure launchers weighs about 130 kg.
Rheinmetall ‘soft kill’ system fires a blinding smoke screen against an incoming target. Photo: Rheinmetall
ELTA has already integrated the NAVGUARD with the Rheinmetall Defence MASS system – a programmable countermeasure launcher with omnispectral coverage, designed to protect vessels of any size. Each launcher stores 32 rounds, assuring protection in all relevant wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (radar, infrared, laser, electro-optic, ultraviolet). MASS can be operated either in standalone mode or as an integral part of the ship’s networked command, control and weapon engagement systems. Activation by cueing from the radar enables the system to deploy its effect at the most efficient way. In 2012 the NAVGUARD system was tested for the first time on a German vessel, effectively detecting and classifying guided missiles fired at it from different ranges. Follow-on tests will evaluate the systems’ end-to-end performance. The tests lead by the German Navy and Rheinmetall are conducted under NATO’s ‘Smart Defense’.
Rheinmetall also offers an even smaller launcher known as “Rosy”, modified for naval applications. This 40 mm decoy system produces an instantaneous wall of radar-absorbing smoke/obscurant that makes optical and infrared detection impossible.
RAFAEL’s Spotlite N conceptual system layout
A different type of sensor is the Spotlite N from RAFAEL. This electro-optical sensor effectively detects and localizes firing sources within effective range, enabling the vessel’s crew to engage the threat using on-board weapons such as the Typjhoon stabilized, remortely controlled cannon.
The Spotlite-N is a stabilized, staring EO/IR sensor, a derivative of RAFAEL’s Spotlite system, currently available in dismounted and vehicular configurations. automatically detects, classifies and tracks fire sources such as small arms, rockets, and guided missiles. The system incorporates the sensors and the electronic section including the advanced Multi algorithms/processing computer. The sensor has a field of regard covering – 360 degrees in azimuth and 90 degrees in elevation with multi-target tracking (MTT) capability. The prime mission of the system is to provide the crew with the capability to Detect, Locate, Classify & Track fire sources like: Small arms, rockets, missiles, ATGMS, shells etc. For defense purposes the Spotlite N can slave and direct weapon and other systems (guns, missiles, EO payloads, Radars etc). RAFAEL will display the Spotlite N in IMDEX Asia naval expo this weel in Singapore.
The attack on USS Cole in the year 2000 proved the vulnerability of naval vessels to asymmetric threats. In the case of the Cole it was small rubber boats, but the danger from RPGs and guided missiles is also significant, particularly to small boats patrolling coastlines, littorals and riverine. Photo: US Navy
RSS Steadfast is one of four Formidable class missile frigates in service with the Singapore Navy. Two of her sister ships — RSS Formidable and RSS Tenacious will be open for delegates visits during the IMDEX 2013 exhibition.
Exhibitors and delegates at the ninth International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX Asia) will have the opportunity to meet more key players from international navies, coast guards and maritime agencies as the biennial exhibition is set to host the highest number ever of Navy Chiefs from all over the world. This year’s show has attracted a record number of 21 Navy Chiefs from all over the world. In total, some 30 Chiefs of Navy, Coast Guard Directors-General and heads of maritime agencies from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond arewill attending at the show. The biennial show is organised by Experia Events with the support of the Republic of Singapore Navy.
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Defense Update is covering the event on site, reporting news and features on Asia-Pacific maritime topics through the week.
Another vessel visiting Singapore for IMDEX is KRI Frans Kaisiepo, the new SIGMA Class missile corvette built by the Dutch Schelde shipyard for the Indonesian Navy. The vessel was delivered in 2009.
Mr Jimmy Lau, Managing Director of Experia Events, said: “It is extremely encouraging to see that, despite uncertainty in the global economy, a record number of almost 200 companies have signed up to participate in IMDEX Asia 2013. The strong support from all our exhibitors affirms IMDEX Asia’s status as a must-attend event in the international naval and maritime defence calendar. This year’s show is set to be our biggest ever and we look forward to a successful few days ahead.”
IMDEX Asia, returning for its ninth edition from 14 to 16 May 2013 at the Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC) in Singapore, is recognised as Asia-Pacific’s foremost maritime defence show. Some 30 Navy Chiefs, Coast Guard Directors-General and heads of maritime agencies in the Asia Pacific region and beyond will be taking part in the event. IMDEX Asia 2013 will also showcase 15 warships from 9 navies from around the world with the participation of 15 warships from nine countries including Australia, France, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States and Singapore. These vessels will include, for the first time, the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) USS Freedom, which has just arrived in Singapore.
The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is hosting the Maritime Information Sharing Exercise (MARISX) and the Western Pacific Multilateral Sea Exercise (WMSX), bringing together navies and maritime agencies to foster international co-operation.
Debuting at this year’s IMDEX Asia are Technology Seminars, which provide a platform for exhibitors to present their latest and most innovative technologies to potential buyers from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. The exhibition will also highlight an array of rigid-inflatable boats (RIBs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in the Static Display.
IMDEX Asia 2013 will feature 194 participating companies from 29 countries around the world. This represents a 17% increase in exhibitors from IMDEX Asia 2011. As a testament to the show’s significance and continued ability to attract top companies, 40% are new exhibitors, including Devor Technologies, Fincantieri, Liquid Robotics, Lürssen Marine Technology, Scania, Schiebel, Westport Shipyard and Viking Air. Returning exhibitors include industry heavyweights such as Austal, DCNS, Lockheed Martin, MBDA, ST Engineering and ThyssenKrupp Marine. Among the Israeli exhibitors are IAI, RAFAEL, Elbit Systems, and Israel Shipyards.
Country/group pavilions at IMDEX Asia 2013 include Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Singapore and the UK, as well as, for the first time ever, Israel. The Danish Pavilion, led by Naval Team Denmark, is making its return to IMDEX Asia 2013 with an even larger presence following its debut appearance in 2009.
Jimmy Lau said: “The increasing number of Navy Chiefs and VIPs attending IMDEX Asia is a testament to the growing stature of the event globally. With the Asia-Pacific region now the world’s second largest naval market, IMDEX Asia is more than ever a must-attend show in the international naval and maritime defence calendar. With new highlights and features in place for this year, we are confident that IMDEX Asia 2013 is more than ready to deliver an even greater experience for both exhibitors and visitors.”
Held in conjunction with IMDEX Asia will be high-level conferences such as the prestigious invitation-only International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) and the first ever Asian edition of the International Naval Engineering Conference (INEC@IMDEX Asia). IMSC will gather Navy Chiefs, Directors-General of Coast Guard and heads of maritime agencies from around the world to discuss evolving challenges to naval security. “Conferences such as IMSC not only strengthen IMDEX Asia’s position as a mustattend event in the international maritime industry calendar, they also play an important role in cementing Singapore’s status as an important maritime hub” Lau added.
USS Freedom (LCS 1), which deployed from San Diego in March with an MH-60 Romeo maritime helicopter, arrived in Changi, Singapore, April 18 as part of its deployment to Southeast Asia. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute on April 16-18 by using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system. This flight shatters their previous record of 26 hours and 2 minutes set in 2009 using the same vehicle, but with gaseous hydrogen stored at 5000 psi.
Liquid hydrogen is three times denser than 5000-psi compressed hydrogen. The cryogenic liquid is stored in a lightweight tank, allowing more hydrogen to be carried onboard to increase flight endurance. Success in flight requires developing a high quality, lightweight insulated flight dewar for the cryogenic fuel, plus matching the boil off of the cryogenic hydrogen to the vehicle fuel consumption.
“Liquid hydrogen coupled with fuel-cell technology has the potential to expand the utility of small unmanned systems by greatly increasing endurance while still affording all the benefits of electric propulsion,” said Dr. Karen Swider-Lyons, NRL principal investigator.
Although long endurance is possible with conventional, hydrocarbon-fueled systems, these are usually loud, inefficient, and unreliable in this aircraft class. Similarly, small, electric, battery-powered systems are limited to endurances of only several hours. To address the logistics of in-theater supply of liquid or gaseous hydrogen, NRL proposes in-situ manufacture of LH2 for use as fuel. An electrolyzer-based system would require only water for feedstock, and electricity, possibly from solar or wind, to electrolyze, compress, and refrigerate the fuel. The NRL LH2 flight capability is being developed by NRL’s Tactical Electronic Warfare and Chemistry Divisions, and is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.
An Italian built M-346 jet trainer crashed yesterday on a flight over Italy. The aircraft manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi said the single pilot that flew the twin-engine jet is in a good condition after ejecting from the plane designated CMX617 yesterday, after taking off from taking off from Turin-Caselle airport. The aircaft was one of four prototypes built by Alenia as part of the advanced trainer development program.
The mishape developed 20 minutes into the flight, as the pilot reported a technical problem. The aircraft crashed in Val Bormida, between the provinces of Cuneo and Savona, without damage to people or properties. Alenia Aermacchi has launched an internal technical investigation to examine the cause for the accident. This is the second loss of M-346 prototype, following a pervious accident, when another M-346 prototype was lost over the Persian Gulf after the adubai Airshow of 2011. Both crew members escaped and survived.
The loss comes at a sensitive time for Alenia Aermacchi, that has already delived only two aircraft to Italian Air Force, while deliveries to 12 planes Singapore, and 30 to Israel are pending, following a successful export campaign by the Italian manufacturer. The model is also seeking prospects in poland and the USA.
One week has passed since the attacks near Damascus, which according to American sources destroyed advanced Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles making their way from Iran to Hizbollah in Lebanon. Now that the dust has settled and it seems as if the strike was contained – there was no immediate response either from Syria or Hizbollah – one can point to some initial conclusions. At the same time, it is entirely possible that we are in the midst of a greater crisis, both in terms of a belated reprisal and especially in terms of the probability that more red lines will be crossed and that further attacks could lead to an escalation on the northern border. This essay assumes, as reported in foreign sources, that the Damascus attack was carried out by Israel.
- For the first time in a decade Israel took action against the weapons supply route operated by Iran and Syria to Hizbollah. Until 2000, President Hafez al-Assad limited the supply of arms to Hizbollah; the most potent weapons he supplied – or allowed the Iranians to supply – were short range Katyushas. His son Bashar Assad, on the other hand, has provided Hizbollah with every form of advanced modern arms. The financing, knowledge, and training almost all hail from Tehran; some of the weapon systems are Iranian-made, others are manufactured in Syria (such as various rockets and the M-600 missiles, the Syrian version of the Fateh-110), and still others come from Russia. The weapons transported from Iran arrive by air to the Damascus international airport, and from there are shipped to Lebanon. Despite the legitimacy for Israeli action bestowed by Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006, prohibiting the supply of weapons to Lebanon to any body other than the Lebanese government, Israel has never taken action against such shipments, apparently because of cost-benefit considerations and the understanding that the chances for escalation vis-à-vis Syria (with which Israel has shared a calm border for decades) and Hizbollah are high and do not justify the possible benefit. Still, when late in the last decade it became clear that Bashar Assad had broken every arms supply rule in the book, Israel identified four weapon systems that it sought to prevent reaching Hizbollah, even at the risk of escalation: advanced aerial defense systems, long range surface-to-surface missiles, the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, and chemical weapons.
- The Israeli operation demanded impressive intelligence and operational capabilities: intelligence penetration of Iran and Hizbollah secrets and an attack on a sector protected by some of the densest and most advanced aerial defense systems in the world. At the moment it seems that Israel’s intelligence and strategic assessments about the enemy’s response were correct. The calculated risk Israel took has proved itself. It seems that Israel’s assumption that its deterrence is very strong vis-à-vis all the players, given a situation in which the Syrians, Hizbollah, and Iran have different priorities and therefore will not risk an immediate military confrontation, proved correct. Israel has also adopted the method that proved itself in 2007-8 and did not claim responsibility for the attack, leaving the Syrians plausible deniability. In addition, the targets were not Syrian assets, making it easier for the Syrians to contain the damage, and the attack did not occur on either Iranian or Lebanese territory, allowing these two actors – the weapon systems supplier and the customer – free of obligation for an immediate response.
- Each of these three enemies of Israel is preoccupied with more important challenges than responding to an Israeli attack. The Syrian regime is fighting for its life against the internal opposition, already in control of 50 percent of Syrian territory. In the past month, the regime has made some strides against the rebels and is managing to keep the conflict internal, in which the army has a built-in advantage over the insurgents; the regime is eager to maintain this success. External intervention and a confrontation with Israel are a danger to the regime, bearing the potential for toppling it. Hizbollah too prefers survival of the Syrian regime, which serves as a bridge to Iran and as a strategic rear. Its soldiers are fighting in Syria; opening another front with Israel is not desirable and would damage its legitimacy in Lebanon, which has suffered due to its involvement in the Hariri murder and because it dragged Lebanon into the war with Israel in 2006 and is now actively supporting Assad’s regime. Iran too will find it hard to respond, as it has never admitted supplying advanced weapons to Hizbollah. Furthermore, the survival of Assad’s regime is very important. Above all, Iran’s supreme interest is to protect its military nuclear program and maintain Hizbollah as its forward arm to respond to an attack on the nuclear facilities.
- Yet even if there is no immediate massive response, Hizbollah, Iran, and at times even Syria sometimes display patience, keep their account ledgers open, and choose a delayed response, preferably far from the local arena where they risk escalation and Israel has good defensive capabilities. Another type of response is deploying small terrorist organizations or executing a limited operation in the Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian sector without assuming responsibility. Israel can contain such operations and avoid a response because the Israeli action that started the cycle of retaliation was highly successful – provided the response doesn’t take a toll requiring further escalation.
- The Israeli attack enjoys a relatively high degree of legitimacy, from Western recognition of the move as one of self-defense (President Obama) to the Sunni world’s pleasure at the distress of the Syrian and Iranian regimes and Hizbollah. The satisfaction with the attack in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia was hard to hide, and even Egypt and Jordan sufficed themselves with pro forma denunciations and diplomatic lip service. An attack on the radical axis, no matter which component – an axis currently butchering tens of thousands of Syrian citizens – is now more legitimate than ever. Nonetheless, it is important to note that Israel has not intervened in the civil war and even indicated to Syria that it has no intention of aligning itself with the opposition to the regime. Israel did not directly damage Syrian assets, only Hizbollah and Iranian assets that pose a risk to Israel’s security.
- The American angle: Israel did not ask for a green light from the United States before the attack. Still, the level of coordination and the strategic understandings between the two nations are profound, and there is no doubt that that each side has defined its critical interests to the other and described the causes that will require action, the limits of the action, and its own limitations. While some claim that the action was Israel’s attempt to maneuver the United States into intervening in Syria, this is without foundation. Israel acted against Iranian and Hizbollah elements in Syria posing a direct danger to Israel’s security. There is also no verification of reports that dozens of the regime’s commandos were killed or injured. Still, critics of President Obama can point to the Israeli operation as an example of an appropriate response to a red line being crossed and the weakness of the claim made by NATO and the Pentagon that the Syrian aerial defenses are significantly stronger than those of Libya or Iraq
- The Russian angle: The Russians, not the Iranians, are the suppliers of two of the four systems defined as red lines: advanced aerial defense systems such as the SA-17 and the advanced Yakhont shore-to-sea missile. If these Russian systems, supplied to Syria on condition they would not be transferred to another end user, were to have been attacked on the Lebanese side, the Russians would have been placed in a very embarrassing position. Among the risks of attacking in Syria is the possibility that the Russians, who took an unfavorable view of the operation, will release long range aerial defenses such as the S-300 for export to Syria.
- One objection to the recent attack is that some of the weapon systems constituting a red line are apparently already in Hizbollah hands. However, quantities matter. Hizbollah certainly does not have tens of thousands, or even thousands, of long range missiles. If at issue are several dozen or even a few hundred missiles, there is importance in reducing the number of enemy missiles to a minimum. As in Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, many enemy missiles are destroyed before they are launched and others are shot down by anti-missile defense systems. A large number of missiles in enemy hands allows saturation of anti-missile defense systems in Israel and provides Hizbollah more breathing room. What was destroyed in Syria will make a more extensive future confrontation with Hizbollah easier to manage. Also, the future costs of reviving the smuggling route will represent a logistical, operational, and intelligence burden for Iran and Hizbollah, thereby slowing the pace of Hizbollah force construction.
- What is the impact on the conflict with Iran? There are two strategic schools of thought: One says “Iran first” and that all priorities and resources should be directed at this effort, including the willingness to pay strategic costs in other arenas, whereas another says “Syria and Hizbollah first,” based on the recognition that it is possible to deter Iran and demonstrate Israel’s resolve and capabilities when it comes to crossing red lines and weaken Iran’s ability to respond by attacking its allies and first line of fire. It is unclear if these broader strategic considerations were examined before the attack, but in practice, results suggest that the second school of thought has proven itself. It remains to be seen whether Iran has internalized the message of Israel’s resolve on the one hand and the weakness of its allies on the other.
- Finally, the episode is likely not yet over, neither tactically nor strategically. In the short term, a high level of vigilance is required to watch for a closing of accounts by a limited and/or delayed response, both locally in the northern sector and abroad. Strategically, Israel’s decision makers will have to decide whether to continue taking action against Hizbollah’s acquisition of advanced critical weapon systems. When Israel considers its next operation, it will have to ask whether the strategic circumstances still allow freedom of action with little risk to Israel, or the cumulative incidents will necessarily lead to unwanted escalation. The assumption of relative freedom of action is an illusion, because freedom of action is a consumable asset. An inductive assumption – if there was no response to two incidents there will likewise be no response to future incidents – is liable to prove erroneous. There is cumulative pressure on the leaders of the other side to react. This pressure might generate a breaking point and an extended response, followed by dangerous escalation.