New Weapon Aims to Be a Ship Killer Against the Chinese Navy: China has more warships than the United States, and its navy has become more technologically advanced and lethal over the last two decades. The U.S. military is looking at ways it can fatally strike China’s surface fleet including aircraft carrier strike groups that protect China’s strategic interests in Taiwan Strait and other areas of the Indo-Pacific.
Due to this need, the Americans have come up with a novel approach to anti-ship aerial warfare by converting an existing bomb into a killer of Chinese vessels.
Take a JDAM and Watch It Split a Ship in Two
This new weapon is called the “Quicksink program.” The U.S Air Force took an existing 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and turned it into a ship destroyer. A Quicksink demonstration can be watched above.
The video was released by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) September 19 and shows a mid-size target ship floating along with a dramatic munition cruising in and causing a massive explosion on board that split the target in half. The projectile looks like a missile in the video, but it is really the JDAM Quicksink munition.
The Air Force Wants Into the Ship-killing Game
This conversion of the JDAM into a Quicksink munition is a low-cost method to deliver more ship-killing capability to the Air Force. The Air Force Research Lab calls this innovation project the Weapons Open Systems Architecture and the Quicksink program “drives down costs by providing modularity and the ability to plug-and-play different manufacturers’ seeker components,” according to AFRL.
Converting a JDAM Is Cheaper Than a New Torpedo
The navy’s submarine fleet mainly provides the punch to take out enemy ships with Mk 48 heavyweight torpedoes, but the Air Force was looking for something powerful that could be dropped from a fighter to take advantage of the JDAM’s power and accuracy. Besides, the Mk48 is expensive. The latest model costs around $5.4 million apiece. Quicksink seeker kits can be had for $200,000. And depending on how many the Air Force buys, it could reduce the price down to $50,000 if 1,000 Quicksink kits are made.
The Guidance System Is Ingenious
The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick explains that Quicksink has some exemplary guidance features. “The radar seeker is contained in the front portion of the nose while the camera is installed in a fairing on the side. This is all then integrated onto the front of an otherwise standard GBU-31/B JDAM, which retains its GPS-assisted inertial navigation system (INS) guidance package in the tail,” he wrote.
Works Like an Air Dropped Torpedo
This is an all-weather solution that packs a wallop against enemy shipping. It’s almost like an air-launched torpedo. Coordinates are supplied prior to the JDAM launch sequence. The weapon first glides to the target area. Then the system switches to the Quicksink seeker and it figures out where the target is headed. The weapon hits ships at the waterline. Even when it misses it could do so much damage that the ship would be combat ineffective.
Works in Tandem with Undersea Warfare
Quicksink is an excellent supplement to submarines. These low-cost conversions to existing weapons are just the kind of ingenuity that the U.S. military needs when pondering the type of systems that can defeat the Chinese navy. Quicksink is only limited by the number of seekers and JDAMs it can convert. As AFRL said, “Quicksink is an answer to the need to quickly neutralize menacing maritime threats over vast areas around the world.”
Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.