Soft-kill anti-ship missile self-protection techniques have evolved significantly since the October 1967 sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile to match the ever-growing missile threat, both in terms of smartness and numbers. Indeed missiles continuously get faster, stealthier, more manoeuvrable and increasingly intelligent in terms of target discrimination and electronic countermeasures.
According to a document released by the British Ministry of Defence's Maritime Integrated Defence Aids Suite Programme office, 241 anti-ship missile attacks have occurred since 1967, of which 113 were not defeated and the rest (except one) defeated by soft-kill systems. Off-board expendable soft-kill technology has attempted to keep pace with the threats. Not only have launching systems, for example, evolved from fixed station to trainable systems, but the payloads used are increasingly adapted for multirole operations.
Chemring Countermeasures, as one of the worlds leading manufacturer of 130 mm countermeasures rounds and decoy payloads, decided in 2009 to invest in the development of an advanced system today known as Centurion. This is a 12 x 130 mm barrelled fully trainable launcher that minimises the need for ship manoeuvre and at the same time provides faster reaction times. In addition to being compatible with existing 130 mm naval infrared and radar-guided-guided missile countermeasures rounds and other payloads such as obscurants, it has been specifically designed, in conjunction with a family of new advanced variable Range Multi-payload Rounds, to be adaptable to defeat future threats and accommodate future solutions. Moreover, it also offers significant capability in other warfare areas including the deployment of anti-torpedo countermeasures and solutions to counter asymmetric, terrorist and piracy threats. During tests in November 2013 Chemring, together with Raytheon, successfully fired a Javelin missile from the trainable launcher prototype with the objective of developing a naval anti-surface capability. The Centurion's low weight and small deck footprint make it applicable to platforms from patrol craft through to major combatant vessels. The combination of trainable launcher and the variable range capability allows payload placement to be controlled in three axes. Positional accuracy is further enhanced through stabilisation of the aim point to counter ship movement. This gives better ship signature replication in the missiles seeker and offers a step change in soft-kill performance, according to Chemring. Still in an advance development and trials phase, Centurion has been developed for perceived British and world market needs for a trainable launcher.
Among the latest in-service development in trainable launchers, Rheinmetall has unveiled at the Euronaval 2014 exhibition near Paris a new version of its market-leading Multi-Ammunition Soft-kill System (Mass) with an anti-torpedo capability, represented by up to four DCNS Canto decoys launchers. Existing launchers can be easily equipped with the new anti-torpedo upgrade kit without modification, adding basically any provider-independent system. The Mass is offered by Rheimentall as a lightweight, low ship impact, low-signature soft-kill system employing a single type of programmable-fuse ammunition. Based on a low RCS stabilised and trainable 32-barrel launcher, it uses the same company-provided 81 mm-calibre spin-stabilised Omni-Trap multispectral decoy, covering radar, infrared, laser, electro-optical and ultraviolet (and optionally millimetric) wavebands for employment in seduction, distraction and confusion modes. The Mass is in service or in order with more than a dozen worldwide navies and its latest customer is New Zealand, which ordered it in a twin-launcher configuration with long-range capability to equip two of its Meko-class frigates in a configuration including a Saab laser warning receiver to counter the ever-growing asymmetric threat. Rheinmetall is however cooperating with IAI/Elta in Israel to integrate its NavGuard radar-based projectile warning system that is able to detect even small incoming threats, as evidenced by a live-firing testing against a passive-guided Milan anti-tank missile.
Building on the success of the widely sold Dagaie and Dagaie Mk 2 decoy system developed in conjunction with countermeasures specialist Lacroix, Sagem (part of Safran group) has developed the New-Generation Dagaie System. Based on a modular architecture, this is a twin-axis launcher, trainable in elevation and azimuth, which has been acquired so far by the French Navy for new Horizon type destroyers and Fremm multirole frigates (also delivered to Morocco). Delivered in a 12-barrel configuration and firing Lacroix's families of new generation Sealem and Sealir decoy rockets, they deploy RF and IR payloads. An active off-board decoy round called Sealad and an acoustic anti-torpedo called Sealat have also been developed. The fact that a low-RCS launcher variant of this new-gen Dagaie with eight launch tubes is deployed on board Republic of Singapore Navy's Formidable-class frigates is an open secret. The French company is also marketing the Dagaie NG version which includes 62/80 mm Sealem and Sealir decoys developed by Lacroix.