The U.S. Navy and an unknown defense contractor are working on a new missile the service says will give its submarines a new, “disruptive offensive capability” to take on enemy ships. The previously unknown weapon, known as Sea Dragon, supposedly combines existing an U.S. Navy platform with an existing capability, is likely a new version of a versatile air defense missile capable of pinch hitting as an anti-ship missile.
The Washington Post broke the story over the weekend that Chinese hackers had compromised the computers of a Navy contractor and stolen 614 gigabytes of data. The stolen data pertained to the Navy’s Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which conducts research and development on submarine systems. According to the Post , the stolen data includes, “signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems, and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library.”
As if that weren’t bad enough, it also included data on the Navy’s new “Sea Dragon” weapon system. The Post withheld some key information about Sea Dragon at the request of the Navy, but did state that the weapon is a supersonic anti-ship missile for use by submarines. According to a statement by the Navy, the weapon was a “disruptive offensive capability” created by “integrating an existing weapon system with an existing Navy platform.” The weapon was to start underwater weapons testing later this year and be ready for service 2020.
What is Sea Dragon? Well, the Navy knows, as does a certain defense contractor. And it’s safe to say that China knows thanks to that 614 gigabytes of lost data. The fact that the missile is based upon “an existing weapon system” is a huge clue, as is the fact that it’s supersonic. All four of the Navy’s offensive missiles: the Harpoon anti-ship missile, Tomahawk land attack missile, the new Naval Strike Missile, and the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile are all subsonic missiles. We can count those weapons out.
What other existing Navy missiles fit the bill? Just one actually: the newish Standard Missile (SM) 6 air defense missile, or SM-6 . The latest development of the Standard series of surface-to-air missiles, SM-6 is designed to be launched by U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke -class destroyers and Ticonderoga -class cruisers to defend the fleet from cruise missiles, manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and even short-range ballistic missiles. SM-6 has a range somewhere around 180 miles. The missile’s only drawback is, originally designed to shoot down flying targets, it has a fairly small blast fragmentation warhead.
The SM-6 is indeed supersonic. In fact, it can fly at 3.5 times the speed of sound, or 2,685 miles an hour. The SM-6 also has the fun trick of taking targeting data from other Navy assets, including the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The system, known as Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air or NIFC-CA , allows any of these airborne platforms to relay threat targeting data to SM-6 missiles.
Under a typical engagement, a E-2D Advanced […]