SEA RAM Enables Improved “Reach-out and Touch Somebody” Capability

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2003

In August, Raytheon (Louisville, KY) unveiled SEA RAM, a shipboard, close-in defense system with three times the effective range of Phalanx. The system displayed is a near-production model. Already tested by the Royal Navy, SEA RAM could be deployed aboard US Navy ships by 2005, with a potential production run of up to 200 systems. Several members of Congress present at the unveiling indicated that as much as $ 18 million could be appropriated for the system this fall. The SEA RAM Anti-ship Missile Defense System is under development jointly by Raytheon in the US and RAM-System GmbH in Germany.

“SEA RAM is a combination of elements of Phalanx CIWS Block 1B and the Rolling Airframe Missile Guided Missile System,” said John Eagles, SEA RAM Public Affairs Officer for Raytheon. “It uses the radar sensors of the 1B and the 11-round RAM Block 1 missile guide.” Like the modest demands of Phalanx, only power and cooling water will be required from the ship. Thus, it is a new combination of existing, proven technologies providing both better detection of incoming missiles and more firepower to destroy the threat at a much greater distance. SEA RAM is specifically designed to extend the inner layer battle space and enable the ship to effectively engage both existing and future high-performance, supersonic, and subsonic threats, especially in the crowded littoral warfare arena.

SEA RAM will include the latest version Ku-Band search and track radar, a new forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imaging system and an electronic surveillance measure (ESM) receiver. SEA RAM's sensor suite will provide multi-spectrum search and targeting capability for the day and nighttime operation. New operators’ consoles (local and remote) provide the operator with video images from the FLIR for threat detection/track. The operator can establish positive identification (ID) of precisely where or what the system is tracking. Each console will contain a display, keyboard and joystick handle. For low velocity threats the operator will be able to move the mount, designate and engage the target. The local control station (LCS) will house the unique SEA RAM electronics and provide an interface to the SEA RAM. The LCS will also provide the necessary FDDI, NTDS or 1553 interface to the ship's combat system, should it be required or desired.

While there is currently no contract for SEA RAM, it's been in the works for several years. The Royal Navy tested SEA RAM aboard HMS York (D-98), a Type-42, Stretch-3 guided missile destroyer, from Feb until Oct 2001 for both sea and port trials. York is the twelfth and last ship of her class and is under the command of Commander R. L. Powell, RN. Late last year, Raytheon and the USN fired some blast test vehicles at China Lake to test both the effects of the rocket motors on sensors and on new software. “It worked well,” commented Eagles.

The August rollout was of a near-production model, assembled in Louisville at SNADS -- Raytheon Surface Navy Air Defense Systems. The program manager is in Tucson, AZ, with production done in the Louisville facility, which also produces Phalanx.

Development continues, according to Eagles. The first unit purchased by the Navy will be the one unveiled this month with only minor modifications and testing.

While no further testing is yet scheduled, Raytheon is making plans to install SEA RAM aboard at least one US Navy ship. Raytheon expects SEA RAM will be operational with the fleet in 2005, although the Navy is as yet not as forthcoming.

Since SEA RAM has the same footprint as Phalanx with only a little greater weight, the plan to replace Phalanx with SEA RAM is seen as relatively simple. Ideally, a ship will replace one of two or more Phalanx units with a SEA RAM, adding greater reach-out capability for self-defense with the close-in capabilities already provided by Phalanx to create a layered defense.

“If you can push a missile out over the horizon to kill a missile headed your way, everybody is happier,” noted Eagles.

SEA RAM is billed as having three times the range of the Phalanx CIWS.