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Meet the SLAM-ER

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April 1, 2006

Meet the SLAM-ER

Meet the SLAM-ER

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April 2, 2006 Meet the appropriately named SLAM-ER the Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response weapon. The most accurate weapon in the U.S. Navy inventory, the SLAM-ER, is an air-launched, day/night, adverse weather, over-the-horizon missile, which can be used in fire-and-forget mode, in which case it will use GPS to deliver its 500-pound warhead, with frightening precisionanywhere within 275 kilometres from its launch point. The clever aspect of the SLAM-ER though, is that it can use the warfighter-in-the-loop meaning it can fly a pre-planned or target-of-opportunity route to the target area and be retargeted in flight by using global positioning system data and an infrared seeker with an advanced data link. The SLAM-ER is also deadly accurate at hitting moving targets travelling at highway speeds.

An example of the capabilities of the SLAM-ER weapon was demonstrated recently in long-range testing by the US Navy. The maximum-range test was from an altitude of 40,000 feet from a U.S. Navy F/A-18B more than 170 miles (150 nm) from a mobile ship target. After being released, the SLAM-ER twice received updated target information, changed its course and directly hit the target.

In another test, a SLAM-ER was launched for the first time from an operational U.S. Navy S-3B Viking, again scoring a direct hit. For the S-3B launch, the SLAM-ER was released from 15,000 feet, approximately 115 miles (100 nm) from the target. When the SLAM-ER was approximately 11 miles from a simulated missile launcher target, it received midcourse target updates and was successfully guided to within six feet of the launcher.

In yet another set of tests, the SLAM-ER successfully demonstrated its retargeting capability. Operating from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, an F/A-18C Hornet launched a SLAM-ER to destroy a simulated radar site on San Nicolas island, in the Pacific Ocean, used by the U.S. Navy for test and training missions.

The SLAM-ER changed direction when the Hornet pilot identified a new target on the island and sent a land midcourse update. Within several miles of the simulated surface-to-air missile site, the SLAM-ER began to transmit real-time video to an S-3B Viking aircrew assigned to Sea Control Squadron 35 (VS-35). The crew utilized the data to pinpoint the new target and destroy it.

Viewing the target scene in real time prior to impact allows target identification, reduced collateral damage, selection of a secondary aimpoint in the event the original target has already been destroyed, and an immediate indication of mission success.

In addition to retargeting, the SLAM-ER is the only weapon in the US Navy's arsenal capable of hitting a target moving at highway speeds from standoff outside area defense ranges.

The U.S. Navy took delivery of the first SLAM -- a derivative of the Harpoon anti-ship missile -- in 1988, and the first SLAM-ER in 1998. Since then, Boeing has modified more than 700 SLAM missiles into SLAM-ERs for the U.S. Navy. These retrofit upgrades include planar wings to improve range and aerodynamic performance; an improved warhead to increase penetration and lethality against hardened targets; and software improvements making it easier for the control aircraft to select the precise hit-point on the target.

SLAM-ER is currently sold to the U.S. Navy and the Republic of Korea Air Force and is being considered by the Royal Australia Air Force for its AIR 5418 requirement.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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