Why are Anti-Ship Missiles Becoming the Hottest Commodity?

On February 7, the U.S. approved the possible sale of 200 AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) to Australia, with an estimated value of $ 900 million. The sale approval was announced by the U.S.’ the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), operating under the Department of Defense (DoD).

The sale includes 11 ATM-158C LRASM Telemtri-variant, DATM-158C LRASM, Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM-158C LRASM) and other powerful equipment. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor, as the DSCA stated.

Stealth Ship-Killer Missiles

The AGM-158C LRASM is a stealth ship-killer missile with a more advance targeting capability than the Harpoon anti-ship missile operated by the U.S. Navy since 1977. Australia—one of America’s closest allies—is planning to use this missile in its F-18 airplanes in a support capacity with the Australian Navy. This is the first time Australia has purchased such sophisticated missiles.

More and more countries are modernizing their arsenals by developing anti-ship missiles, once famous during the Cold War. The weapon’s ability to sink and hunt an enemy’s vessel at full speed without being detected has made this weapon the hottest property in the defense industry.

Anti-Ship Missile Development Slowed Down After the End of the Cold War

The end of the Cold War halted the development of anti-ship missiles due to the declining tensions at sea between then the U.S-led Western bloc and the Soviet-led Eastern bloc.

Subsequently, the U.S. was engaged in wars that were not naval-focused such as Iraq and Afghanistan—both countries which also had inadequate weapon and defense systems. The U.S. and numerous countries are focusing on land operations in Central Asia and the Middle East, often reducing their navies’ relevance in battlefields.

During the Cold War era, Western navies tended to contain airborne and underwater threats and Russia’s Navy current blue water capacity is limited, as Asianmilitaryreview wrote.

China Factor is One Of the Principal Reasons Behind the Massive Anti-Ship Missile Boom

China’s ambition to be the world’s military powerhouse has pushed the U.S. and other nations to develop their anti-ship missiles. The U.S. Navy budget for the fiscal year of 2021 includes the purchase of ship-killing weapons.

“China has grown their battle fleet to about 335 surface ships, and that’s occurred over the last 10 years as they’ve shifted from a build-up of their homeland defense forces and moved to the sea in an expansionist role around the globe,” Rear Adm. Randy Crites told Defensenews.

Despite the opinion that the Pentagon’s long-range weapons are still far behind those of Beijing, the Navy budget’s inclusion of the purchase of anti-ship missile is still positive progress given Beijing’s determination to focus on rocketry.

“This budget is a great signal of the Navy’s intent to finally get serious about the quality and quantity of the anti-ship missile inventory.The request for LRASM, Naval Strike Missile and Maritime Strike Tomahawk is a real turning point in anti-ship budget seriousness,” said Eric Sayers, a Center for a New American Security adjunct senior fellow and former US Indo-Pacific Command staffer.

In its recent military parade during the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic Of China, the mainland displayed a wide range of military equipment, including the latest generation of anti-ship missile called the YJ-8, China’s government T.V. station CGTN reported.

Japan’s Actions

On February 10, Japan’s Navy has also tested the air-launched version of Type-12 surface-to-air missile, designed for the P-1 maritime patrol plane. Some reports said a P-1 patrol aircraft equipped by four air-based and modernized Type-12 missiles also conducted its debut test flight from the Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Several experts linked Tokyo’s intention to manufacture a new anti-ship missile to China’s Air Forces and coast guards’ increasing activity in Japan’s airspace and territorial waters in the past few months.

“The reality is that China is rapidly increasing military spending, and so people can grasp that we need more pages,” Defense Minister Taro Kono said at a media briefing in September 2019.

Russia is Joining the Race

Russia’s Ministry of Defense succeeded in testing two Mosquito anti-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan. The Mosquito or Moskit missile has a capacity of destroying surface targets as RT reported on July 15, 2019. The Moskit is a supersonic low-altitude cruise missile made by Russia, designed to destroy surface ships weighed up to 20,000 tons.

The missile buying and development boom shows no signs of slowing down.