This March 14, Alan Davis, the program director for short range defense systems at Raytheon’s Missile Systems unit, updated SDArabia’s US correspondent Marty Kauchak about Raytheon’s quickening pace of activities in the new Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 program and its burgeoning partnership with Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding Company (ADSB).
RAM Block 2 is a kinematic and RF receiver upgrade of the legacy-era Block 1/1A missile. The Block 1 series is in the order of battle ofeight nations’ navies, including the UAE’s.
In May 2015 the US Navy declared initial operational capability (IOC) with RAM Block 2.
IOC permits Raytheon to manufacture the Block 2 missile at a low rate initial production, which further allows the Block 2 industry team to resolve production issues. “I suspect we’ll be in full rate production in the fiscal year 2020 timeframe,” Davis predicted.
While the US-to-German governments’ memorandum of understanding on RAM Block 2 calls for sharing development costs for the new missile, it also permits a workshare split between US-German industries. As a result, Raytheon is partnering with the German firm RAMSYS on RAM Block 2.Davis pointed out “We used typically the same supply base that we used for Block 1 in the development of that program.”
The Block 2 offers improved warfighting capabilities when compared to Block 1 series missiles.
In one instance, the new missile is a kinematic upgrade. Kinematics is the term used by the military-industry team to explain the missile’s maneuverability to engage quicker and at further ranges – in this case than the earlier Block 1. Asked to quantify the operational improvement in Block 2 when compared to Block 1, the industry veteran responded, “I can tell you we have more than two and a half times more capability in terms of maneuverability and ‘end game effect’.”
Additionally, an enhanced RF receiver allows detection of anti-ship missiles that employ low probability of intercept receivers.
The RAM missile defends both huge aircraft carriers and world’s smallest ships: https://t.co/GBS6CbqP0h #DIMDEX pic.twitter.com/Noz21QENi0
— Raytheon (@Raytheon) March 31, 2016
While the US and German governments are the two, initial Block 2 customers, other Block 1 operators are viewed as prospective Block 2 end users. Beyond that, “We are already seeing interest by other customers across the Middle East, North Africa, Pacific-Asia and Europe for Block 2. Certainly as the US government continues to deploy Block 2 and it is on IOC, our expectation is the allied nations will follow suit with that,” Davis said.
Interest by a MENA navy to add Block 2 to a ship’s weapons suite comes as no surprise to Davis, given the continued instability in the region’s littoral regions. He further noted, “Many of those potential customers, in particular in the Gulf states, are looking at purchasing corvettes and other types of ships for protecting their coasts and supporting regional stability. RAM provides them with a unique capability against anti-ship missiles, helicopters, aircraft and surface craft. And certainly its most notable feature is to engage multiple threats simultaneously.” RAM’s threat matrix includes defeating subsonic and supersonic targets.
The comprehensive 2016 RAM testing program roadmap further calls for US firings of more than 70 missiles, of a combination of Block 1 and 2 variants, to permit the weapons family to remain effective against a variety of threats and scenarios.
In another development, Raytheon Missile Systems business and Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) are in their tenth year of a partnership that began in 2006 when the two companies began integrating RAMs onto the UAE’s Baynunah-class of ships.
Raytheon teams with ADSB to integrate RAMs and launchers, and Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles, onto the UAE’s Baynunah-class corvettes and other ships.
Davis reflected the relation is based on Raytheon’s commitment “to help the Emiratis with industrialization of the UAE,” and added, “Our ability to work with ADSB has enabled us to help them ensure the navy is equipped with some of the most advanced ship defense capabilities that are available.”
While at first glance10 years are a significant time, the industry subject matter expert continued, “I believe we are in the infancy of that relationship. When you look at the potential shipbuilding program they have planned, we are going to be in a long-term relationship with ADSB. We will certainly continue to support them and stand by them in their time of need given the operations they are involved in. But most important, not only in making ADSB successful but also the UAE Navy and UAE industrial base.”
SDArabia’s US correspondent