Issues Affecting the Navy's Antiship Cruise Missile Programs

Gao ID: C-MASAD-81-11 February 28, 1981

The Navy, to meet existing and projected threats from enemy surface ships armed with long-range missiles, has three antiship cruise missiles in various stages of development. These missiles are designed to provide the Navy with a standoff capability against enemy ships. The missiles under development are the Harpoon, the Tomahawk Antiship Missile (TASM), and the Medium Range Air-to-Surface Missile.

TASM may be approved for production in December 1981. However, a number of basic issues should be resolved before that time. Issues which should be considered are: (1) the mission need for TASM has never been officially approved and the threat is relatively low; and (2) the TASM system's utility could be adversely affected by large decreases in approved quantities, possible salvo firing requirements, and lowered operational requirements. To effectively use its long-range antiship missiles, the Navy needs to accurately detect, classify, and target over-the-horizon ships. Such a capability exists, but the Navy's evaluation of 1978 tests and fleet exercises showed that its current over-the-horizon detection, classification, and targeting (OTH-DC&T) capabilities are seriously limited. All subsystems of the OTH-DC&T system are limited to varying degress. Especially weak are ship identification and battle damage assessment. Since fleet ships and submarines are not equipped to perform OTH-DC&T, Harpoon and TASM OTH-DC&T must be done by combining onboard sensors, remote sensors, or undedicated and scarce fleet aircraft resources. Quantities of Harpoon and TASM being procured or planned for procurement are significantly less than the needs estimates. Currently, the fleet has a shortfall of Harpoon missiles, and a shortfall is also anticipated at program completion in fiscal year 1984, if current procurement plans prevail. Readiness of the Harpoon missile is impaired because the required logistics support has not been fully provided.


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