The Navy is getting ready to accept its first Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) for ship defense — a new variant of the self-guided missiles now protecting a wide range of Navy ships including amphibious assault ships and the Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said.
“RAM provides the self-defense against cruise missiles, aircraft and small surface threats. It has a dual mode RF and IR guidance system that will guide it right to an inbound target,” said Jeffrey Meyer, business development manager, Raytheon.
The Block 2 RAM, now in low-rate-initial production, will be delivered to the Navy toward the end of the summer, Raytheon officials said. Overall, the Navy plans to acquire at least 502 RAMs between 2015 and 2019, said Lt. Robert Myers, a Navy spokesman.
The new Block 2 variant includes a new RF receiver, new navigation system and increased diameter to 6-inches, Raytheon officials said. The new missile variant also includes enhanced guidance algorithms and a more powerful dual-thrust rocket motor enabling the missile to reach longer ranges, Raytheon officials said.
The Block 2 missile is 9.45 feet long, weighs 194-pounds, and is able to reach supersonic speeds, according to Raytheon and Navy information.
The missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Meyer explained. The so-called kinematic or guidance improvements of the Block 2 missile give it an improved ability to counter maneuvering threats, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.
The RAM missile, designed to destroy incoming threats from within the horizon but not in the immediate vicinity of the ship, is currently on LHA big-deck amphibious assault ships, LSD Dock Landing Ships, LPD Amphibious Transport Docks, LHD amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers including the first Ford-class carrier — the USS Ford (CVN 78).
The RAM is designed to function as part of a layered ship defense system by working in tandem with other defense systems.
“The ship’s sensor provides information to the ship’s combat management system and then the RAM weapons systems launcher interfaces with that combat management system and the target positional data is translated,” said Desnie Bear, RAM program official with Raytheon.
Co-produced by Raytheon in Tucson, Ariz. and a German firm called RAMSys, the RAM missile has been around and had continuous upgrades since the 1970s. However, RAM was first deployed in 1993.
The missiles’ built-in guidance systems allow it to zero in on radio frequencies or heat coming from an approaching enemy threat such as a helicopter, aircraft or cruise missile.
“It is autonomous in that once you get all the information from your combat system, it is fire-and -forget. You shoot it and the missile will take care of going to the target itself,” said Meyer.
For instance, the RF seeker built into the RAM can identify and zero in on radio signals coming from the seeker of a cruise missile.
“It uses not only an IR (infrared) imager or seeker but you also have the RF because many of the cruise missiles will be trying to use some sort of seeker to come after the ship. It is a passive RF receiver and the threat is broadcasting an RF signal to find the ship. The RAM will pick up on that radiated radar signature and hone on it,” said Brent Holtzen, RAM program official with Raytheon.
At the same time, cruise missile emit heat as well – so the RAM’s IR seeker can find them also,
“The advantage we have is if the RF gets turned off we also have an IR capability — so we can go after the threat with IR as well. Some cruise missiles are IR guided as well,” said Bear.
Earlier variants of the RAM are currently in use in the U.S., Germany, South Korea, Greece, Egypt, UAE Turkey and Japan, Raytheon officials said.
Worldwide, Raytheon has delivered more than 3,500 RAM missiles and 175 RAM launchers.