407 - The Anti-ship missile: a paradigm of the power of the weak

N. Lygeros

  • Post Category:Articles

For an army having a limited number of warriors, the choice of its defence weapons is essential. Not relying on quantity, it has to take care of the quality of its arsenal. Moreover, the chosen weapons have to be easy to implement even by a limited number, in order to efficiently counter attack in view of a massive attack. For it is not enough, neither to defend with local resistance nor to get a large infrastructure with low mobility. It is better to possess weapons equipping very small buildings that will be more supple as regards logistics and tactics.
In the context of an island, in terms of mass, the biggest danger is the naval one. So, the warships represent the most formidable potential attacking forces. And if that island only has a limited number of warriors, owning a large fleet has almost to be eliminated. Of course, it doesn’t mean that all defence is impossible. To overcome this situation, anti-ship missiles are a perfect weapon with formidable efficiency, offsetting high cost compared with classical munitions.
There are mainly two types of propulsion for missiles. The ramjet, the turbojet and the pusle-jet engine that use ambient air as combustive and that have low consumption. The auto propeller that can have two levels with an accelerator and a cruise propeller. The wing-aircraft can be fixed or rotary. The fixed-wing aircraft is cross-shaped for flight stability. Its size differs according to speed: large for the subsonic ones, small for the transonic and supersonic ones, at last, none for the hypersonic ones. The rotary-wing aircraft is aerodynamic or jet powered. There are three positions for the aerodynamic control surfaces: tailplane, tandem wings, and canard. Whereas jet powered control surfaces are essential for a flight out of atmosphere. The different guidance methods are: remote-controlled, semi-active, active and passive. But the most characteristic point of anti-ship missiles is self-guide. It activates according to the distance of the target. It must have important capacity of discretization: Its principles are simple (via the initial vision of radar) or complex (analysis of the echo credibility via artificial intelligence). Once the target chosen, the self-guide locks on angle and distance via classical techniques. At last, its trajectory is arranged with final manoeuvres to avoid inner defences. For there are only two ways to counter a “fire and forget” and “seaskimmer”missile : delude them or destroy them. The methods are respectively softkill (jamming, deluding) and hardkill (system of very short-range weapons). To counter-fight, it seems judicious to make the missile as stealth as possible, decreasing its radar equivalent surface or its heat seeking surface and/or the fastest as possible to shorten the notice of responsive counter-measures.

Anyway, anti-ship missiles have an important strategic impact because they enable an efficient struggle against a better-armed adversary. They combine flexibility of use, lightness of infrastructure and fire power. Thus, they are a perfect weapon for an army with no large battle deployment and facing warlike intents. So, the anti-ship missile represents a paradigm about the power of the weak.