SINCE 1996, THE Chinese military has steadily expanded its umbrella of land-based missiles, strike aircraft, and submarines designed to overwhelm both US air bases and carrier strike groups. That buildup aims to discourage the US military from potentially intervening in China’s territorial disputes with neighboring Asian countries. Now, the US response appears to be taking shape, first in the form of a new use for an old weapons system.
In late 2016, the Pentagon announced that it would convert the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), a weapon typically fired from a truck-mounted rocket launcher, into a guided ballistic missile capable of hitting moving warships. That represents a planned upgrade of an existing Army missile that can strike targets at distances of about 186 miles. It could also form the linchpin of a US “forward defense” strategy meant to keep China from becoming too aggressive with its growing naval power.
Mind you, they post a picture of a conventional MLRS rocket, instead of an ATACMS. They do use a common launcher, however.
The details of what exact guidance system would be spliced into the nose of the missile are kinda fuzzy. I’ve heard the same SM-6 Standard Missile that has been upgraded to an anti-ship capability. Which would make some sense. And adding such a capability would tend to tie in well with the Navy’s evolving Distributed Lethality initiative, which seeks to complicate the enemy’s defense.
As a passing thought, a similar conversion of the Guided MLRS might be worth taking a look at. It would have a much shorter range, but would also be able to fit 6 rounds in a launcher cell.
Heck, if a Marine MEU is in the area, why not have a HIMARS on the flight deck of the LPD ready to salvo against any surface ship threats?