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Land strike is an important role for modern
submarines. Australia has made the choice
to have such a capability on-board its future
submarines and this article has suggested
feasible operational scenarios and contexts
under which land strike might occur.
A requirement for this capability can be
achieved with a strictly MOTS submarine;
in 2015 the first commissioned S-80 will sail
fitted for land strike. The capability can also be
achieved with some modifications to a MOTS
submarine design such as a French Scorpene
or a German Type 214. A vertical launch
capability could be sought, but this would
require careful consideration with respect to
the cost benefit and the overall risk that this
approach would likely add to the project.
One thing is certain; the requirement for
land strike does not force us down a risky
and costly own design submarine program. A
MOTS or modified MOTS submarine can also
do the job. APDR
SCALP / Storm Shadow
into the AWD launcher noting the combined
projects mentioned above are worth more than
one billion and there are numerous Mk 41 VLS
installations in other potential markets.
A choice which could have a large impact
on the design of the future submarine is the
launch approach; torpedo tube launched or VLS.
Defence will need to weigh up the relative merits
of including a vertical launch capability, which
requires a dedicated launch system as compared
to using torpedo tubes.
The vertical launch capability offers the
advantage of carrying land strike missiles without
offloading other weapon types. A vertical launch
system also allows for relatively fast salvo firing.
It should be noted, however, that they cannot
be reloaded without returning to a base or a
submarine tender. Two variants are available;
Electric Boat supplies the Ohio Class SSGNs with
a war proven Multiple All-Up-Round Canister
(MAC) system, a canister which carries seven land
strike missiles. The USN intends to install these
on the later flights of Virginias in the SSN program
in place of the current VLS system. HDW has a
vertical payload tube option which can carry
seven missiles. It is an option at the advanced
concept stage, but has not been fielded yet. It does
have the advantage over the MAC of being flexible
enough to substitute the land strike missiles for a
package of mines, an Autonomous Underwater
Vehicle, a Special Forces lock or additional 24
tonnes of additional fuel.
The number of canisters or payload tubes
would need to be considered. There would seem
to be very little advantage in having only one
canister or tube, other than it still allows a full load
of torpedoes and other effectors to be carried.
Advantage would be had if multiple canisters
or vertical tubes are fitted because this would
permit a large salvo to be fired with only one
launch datum provided to enemy ASW forces.
Up to three of the HDW vertical payload tubes
can be incorporated into a Collins sized future
submarine, and with their loadout flexibility they
add to overall mission flexibility.
A vertical payload system, especially where
multiple canisters or vertical tubes were used,
would require a larger boat, and may rule out
some MOTS option (it is noted that HDW have a
individual vertical payload tube that is available
for their smaller submarines). Noting the stated
requirement for caution with respect to land strike
bias in the design, and the likely cost and risk
involved, the VLS system may not pass the value
for money test for Australia. With significantly less
risk, all MOTS submarines could be modified to
launch land strike missiles through their tubes.
One final question needs to be asked and
answered with respect to equipment choice.
What impact does land strike weapon choice
have on the selection of the future submarine’s
combat system? If Tomahawk is selected, would
Australia be required to select a US combat
system? The answer to such a question comes
from inspection of extant implementations. In
the case of the Tomahawk integration on-board
RN submarines, they employ an Advanced
Tomahawk Weapon Control System to control
and monitor the targeting, pre-setting and
launching of the missiles. This system interfaces
to the weapon handling and launch system and
the missile via an interface box supplied by Ultra
Electronics and also serves as the interface to the
RN Combat System, SMCS. In effect, this interface
box provides Tomahawk independence from
the SMCS combat system. A similar approach
is employed on the Spanish S-80 by Lockheed
Martin and their Spanish combat system partner,
Faba. This limits the impact of the choice of land
attack missile on the selection of the combat
A requirement for this capability can be achieved with a strictly MOTS submarine;
in 2015 the first commissioned S-80 will sail fitted for land strike.
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