The Air Force’s New Ship Killer (QuickSink) with Torpedo Like Effects

The first Air Force Research Lab video above talks about a new weapon, but it is also recognition of a new threat.

Let’s talk about what is wrong with the scenario in the video, how the Coast Guard could use this new weapon, along with the “Rapid Dragon” delivery system, and why the Coast Guard not only could, but should be the agency to use this weapon against this particular threat.

The Scenario:

NORTHCOM is worried about the cruise missile threat to the continental US, including the possibility of large numbers of missiles launched against priority targets.

“Conventional cruise missiles or hypersonic cruise missiles, low-radar cross-section cruise missiles, cruise missiles from Russia, cruise missiles from China, potentially other countries. Cruise missiles that can be launched from undersea, from 100 miles-plus off the coast. Cruise missiles from on the sea. … Cruise missiles from the air. Cruise missiles from commercial vehicles launched out of a container that can be masked as part of the commercial ship. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

The video shows a ballistic missile being preped for launch from a container. That is possible, but cruise missiles are more likely. In any case, potential actions to stop the launch would be the same.

In the video we see a Navy P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft monitoring the activities of a suspicious container ship. Presumably the war has not started since they don’t call for an Air Force fighter to bring in the weapon until the P-8 sees a launcher being elevated for missile launch. This is really too late to call the Air Force. Before the Air Force can get a fighter on scene, the missiles will have been launched. The aircraft monitoring the ship’s activity should be able to immediately initiate countermeasure. The P-8 Poseidon is capable of carrying Anti-Ship Cruise missiles of 725 kg (1,598 lb). It might be able to deploy the QUICKSINK weapon seen in the video which is based on a 2,000 pound bomb. It could certainly deploy a similar weapon based on the 1000 pound bomb. The problem is that, at this stage in the run-up to war, P-8s should be looking for submarines that might also launch cruise missiles, and fighter aircraft don’t have the endurance to loiter on scene waiting for something to happen. They would also be needed to intercept any cruise missiles that are launched.

The Weapon:

In the actual sinking, this was a big bomb used against a small ship, but the key to its effectiveness what where it exploded.

The weapon is discussed here, “Air Force destroys target vessel with ship-killing JDAM.” It clearly is intended to exploit the non-compressibility of water to allow a weapon that would not normally immediately sink a ship, if it hit above the waterline, to break the ship in half.

“In a September 2021 interview with Military.com, Meeks said one of the bomb’s modifications was a redesigned nose plug. This is intended to keep the bomb from veering off in an unintended direction if it hits the water before the target, which Meeks likened to skipping a stone across the surface of a pond.”

There is additional information about the seeker here, including how it works (GPS to get to the general area, then radar, and imaging IR), expected cost (substantially less than $1M for the all up rounds bought in quantity), and range (15 miles, potentially more with range extending wing kits).

As I have pointed out numerous times, no other non-nuclear weapon equals a modern torpedo’s ability to sink a ship. Apparently the Air Force agreed and decided to develop a weapon that would kill a ship in the same way a modern torpedo does, by detonating under water, preferably below the keel, rather than by directly hitting the target above the waterline. Looking at the videos, it appears the bomb enters the water, almost vertically, close to the port side. We see the familiar lift of the center section as we have seen many times when a Mk48 torpedo is used against a surface target, after which the ship breaks in half. For comparison, here is a destroyer hit by a Mk48, and a Mk48 torpedo’s warhead contains far less explosive than a 2000 pound bomb.

The Launch Platforms:

The weapon can be used on a wide variety combat aircraft. The video shows and F-35 and the actual test was done with an F-15, but there is no reason this could not In fact be dropped from a Coast Guard fixed wing using the “Rapid Dragon” concept.

Rapid Dragon hardware being loaded on a C-130. USAF photo.

Why Coast Guard?:

It is not that the Coast Guard will necessarily be the only ones doing this mission, but the Coast Guard does seem to be particularly well suited for the purpose.

If we are to keep watch on vessels off the US coast in the run up to war, you want aircraft with long endurance. You want excellent communications. You want good electro optics so that you can watch what is happening on a ship from outside the range of shoulder launched air defense systems (MANPAD). You get all that with Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft equipped with the Minotaur system. Using Air Force’s QUICKSINK modified JDAM from the Rapid Dragon launcher means we can have a single unit that can remain on station for an extended period, observe the actions of target of interest, communicate effectively, and if necessary promptly eliminate a threat while freeing other assets like the P-8 and fighters to do jobs only they can do.

It would not be necessary for the Coast Guard to store the weapons or arm the aircraft if a agreement could be reached allowing DOD facilities to load the Rapid Dragon and weapons. Actually targeting would be done by DOD assets anyway. It appears this mission could be performed, even to our smallest fixed wing, the HC-144.

Is it doable?:

A recent report suggests that it is. Lt. Gen. James Slife, who leads Air Force Special Operations Command said, “It doesn’t require any aircraft modifications, it doesn’t require any special aircrew training.”

Might be of interest to compare the amount of ordanance used in this SINKEX. It should be recognized that this retired USN frigate was probably a larger, more resilient target than the one used in the “QUICKSINK” demonstration, but I suspect, if QUICKSINK had been used agains the frigate, the results would have been the same, though it probably would have taken the two halves of the ship longer to sink.

7 thoughts on “The Air Force’s New Ship Killer (QuickSink) with Torpedo Like Effects

  1. I heard about this a few months back. As I understood it at the time it is a kit that could be added to any dumb bomb. The range isn’t much good for offensive action against an escort. But for use against amphibious or transport ships it would be ideal. If the US intends to keep the PRC out of Taiwan it is going to need a weapon for mass effects against follow on formations. I see this still as enabling sea denial and not enabling sea control.

    • The H-60s normally have extra fuel tank hung on the rack. They don’t really have the endurance we need for this mission. The weapon could be used to stop a terrorist vessel, but incorporating the bomb storage and handling at CG air stations would be a major undertaking, not something that could be done easily, extra secure storage, handling equipment, and security personnel.

    • Adding the wing kit was mentioned but in this senario the figher did not have to worry about staying out of range of SAMs and wanted to sink the threat as quickly as possible.

      Thinking about my proposal to pair with Rapid Dragon, range would probably be less than the 15 miles reported because cargo plane would be flying at lower altitude since opening rear cargo door would depressorized the plane and bomb would not have the momentum of a high speed aircraft launch. Still think they could stay outside MANPAD range, but if not wing kit would be appropriate.

      Wing kit would slow down the bomb and make it easier to shot down.

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