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1999 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research's Air and Surface Weapons Technology Program
The ONR's ASWT program heavily favors technology that supports gun systems, and this technology consists largely of “in-the-box”1 and “stovepipe”2 developments. A 1996 review group3 reached a similar conclusion about the overall ASWT program. Although there is a valid niche for naval gun systems, it is addressed by current procurement and 6.4 programs. The ONR ASWT program should be more future-oriented and should address some important current and emerging weapon needs. For example, the Navy has a credible capability to attack stationary targets with a variety of weapons, but this capability is heavily dependent on the robustness of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Navy has no standoff, unmanned weapons to attack moving targets illuminated by moving-target-indicator (MTI) radar. The ONR ASWT program devotes only a limited effort to tasks that are directly responsive to a concept of operations that would allow a moving target to be attacked by weapons launched from ranges beyond the line of sight of the launch platform.
As weapon range requirements increase, there will be an increasing need to launch weapons on targets detected and held by sensors on platforms other than the weapon launch platform. The committee believes that the level of effort devoted to coupling detection systems on remote platforms to the targeting and fire control systems of Navy air-and surface-launched weapons is inadequate.
The current ONR ASWT program components in naval fire support are focused on increasing the range of hybrid, gun-launched, 5-inch missiles. However, the physics of the problem suggest that, as range and payload lethality requirements increase, surface-launched weapons should evolve into rocket-launched missiles. Although much of the current guidance work also applies to missile guidance, no work on imaginative solutions to the problems associated with the development of longer-range (> 100 nautical miles), small-diameter, ship-launched missiles was evident.
There was no evidence that an overall system analysis was done. This was particularly true for systems that in the future will of necessity rely on distributed sensors and data communications. In the committee's view, such an analysis would involve thinking through the entire weapons system (detection to target kill) into which a specific technology development might fit, and estimating the performance and cost parameter ranges that would make the technology acceptable.
The committee (as also the 1996 ONR Board of Visitors [BOV] review group) did not interpret the terms of reference of the study to include a major emphasis on affordability. However, cost and affordability are referred to throughout this assessment as an important factor in the overall weapons systems analysis recommended by the committee to support decisions on technology development.
The committee recommends that a significant portion of ONR's ASWT program be devoted to the exploration of new system concepts and components that support the need for long-range weapons with sufficient warhead yield and precision of delivery that can be launched from platforms outside the range of hostile defensive weapons. This approach is further elaborated in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 gives the committee's assessment and its recommendations for improving ONR's ASWT program. A common thread through these recommendations is the need for systems studies and analysis that involve other ONR codes with relevant responsibilities for overall systems definition. Similar commentary was provided by the previous review group.
The committee's recommendations are summarized as follows:
The term “in the box” means within the context of current program thinking.
The term “stovepipe” refers to a program that stands alone, i.e., is constructed and supported to work by itself.
The Office of Naval Research's Board of Visitors (BOV) review group, May 1996.