Uss Fitzgerald Replenishment At Sea
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) seen here equipped with Naval Strike Missile canisters (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Jennings)

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), one of the 40 surface ships participating in the 29th Iteration of Exercise Rim of the Pacific, was spotted equipped with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace’s Naval Strike Missile. 

The Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart-class destroyer, HMAS Sydney, was also spotted with a full load of four NSMs aboard. Marking the first instance where vessels of both classes were seen equipped with Naval Strike Missiles. 

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HMAS Sydney seen here coming into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam equipped with Naval Strike Missiles (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gavin Arnoldhendershot)

The NSM, which is designated as the RGM-184A by the US Navy, is currently scheduled to be fielded aboard the Navy’s Freedom and Independence classes of Littoral Combat Ships as well as the Constellation class guided missile frigates. 

The Navy picked the NSM as the winner of its Over The Horizon Weapon System (OTH WS) competition which sought a new missile to equip the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships and future guided-missile frigate which became the Constellation class.

USS Gabrielle Gifford was the first US Navy vessel to get the missile back in 2019, which also carried out the first test firing of the missile that same year. 

Ever since then the Navy has been equipping more Independence class ships with the missile. The first Freedom class ship to be equipped with the missile will be the USS Nantucket (LCS-27). 

Alongside the Navy, the Marine Corps also operates the NSM, which makes up the missile component of the Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). This system combines the NSM with Oshkosh Defense’s Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary (ROGUE) Fires vehicle. 

The Naval Strike Missile:

The NSM is a modern multi-mission cruise missile that is meant to strike defended maritime and land targets. It has a range of 100-nmi (185 km) when flying in a Lo-Lo flight path aided by its onboard inertial and terrain-following guidance setup, which is complemented by GPS. 

The missile incorporates an S-ducted serrated inlet, with flush mounted panels and mid-body chines; these design characteristics reduce the missile’s signature aiding its survivability.

The missile also incorporates a passive dual-band infrared seeker for terminal homing instead of an active radar seeker that would set off any electronic support systems (ESM) aboard enemy ships.

The Naval Strike Missile is produced by Raytheon Missile & Defense in the United States in partnership with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. Raytheon also produces the Joint Strike Missile, which is an air-launched variant of the missile.

Author Comments:

For the US Navy, it currently remains unclear whether this is a one-off test for RIMPAC or else the beginning of something much wider. Although the NSM is currently scheduled to go on the LCS-1, 2, and FFG-62 classes, the Navy has also touted putting the missile on the San Antonio class amphibious landing dock ships in the past. However, any mention of this in the budget documents have since disappeared.

Furthermore, the Navy’s yearly buys for the NSM continue to be minuscule with the service only requesting 12 missiles this fiscal year and 13 last year. The Navy’s budget documents also state that Raytheon’s current NSM production line can produce a maximum of 125 missiles a year.

If the Navy plans to equip its Arleigh-Burke class destroyers with NSM, a substantial increase in production is needed unless production is outsourced to Kongsberg. The company currently has two production lines that can produce a maximum of about 350 missiles each, with the company recently standing up a third line in Australia.

 Special thanks to Twitter user Hone_Hone_Bone_ for alerting us to this.