Over the last several years, China has aggressively sought to build and modernize its naval forces. Among the weapons it boasts, is a new expensive hypersonic missile capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with little warning. On Thursday, September 22, the Air Force announced a contract with Raytheon Missiles and Defense to develop and prove the value of the new missile technology.
Still, hypersonic missiles aren’t the only option the US military has to combat China. It’s looking at ways to strike the communist government’s surface fleet without relying exclusively on expensive submarine torpedos. The solution? A new, less expensive weapon in an old package that is hailed as a ship killer.
Old Form, New Technology To Take Down the Chinese Navy
Innovation is nothing new to America. The QUICKSINK program is a collaborative project between the Air Force and Navy. The Air Force Laboratory (AFRL) developed the new asset by adapting a 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).
he JDAM is a highly accurate bomb dropped from a fighter jet. By integrating radar in the nose of the bomb and a camera on its side, a GPS system helps it act like a torpedo that’s dropped from the air. It’s an all-weather solution. When launched from the plane, the weapon system switches to Quicksink mode and figures out where a ship target is located and where it is headed.
The weapon will seek to strike a vessel at the waterline and sink it quickly. Still, if it misses the target, the damage could still be extensive enough to sabotage a ship’s combat effectiveness.
A Complement to Submarine Warfare
The AFRL says the Quicksink bomb quickly neutralizes maritime threats over large areas around the world. The program manager for the AFRL, Kirk Herzog, said a sub could launch a single torpedo to destroy an enemy ship but that the Quicksink was “a low-cost method of achieving torpedo-like kills from the air at a much higher rate and over a much larger area.” In addition, when numerous ships are in a concentrated area, missiles may not be able to distinguish between targets and other vessels while fighter pilots flying above can visually identify a target.
So, while the bombs complement submarine warfare, they’re also much less expensive. Torpedos cost the Navy approximately $5.4 million each. The Quicksink kit needed to convert existing dumb bombs into smart one costs around $200,000 but could drop to as low as $50,000 if the military purchases 1,000 Quicksink kits to revise the JDAM for the maritime application.
It appears the military is investing heavily in finding new and innovative ways to modernize older technologies for modern applications. If the Air Force and Navy incorporate hypersonic capabilities into their arsenals, both weapon systems could seriously threaten opposition forces and act as a deterrent.