Navy LCS Gun Could Get Potent Airburst Rounds to Take Out Drones

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The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit.
he Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts high-speed operations while traveling at speeds of more than 40 knots. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin Bowser)

Crews on Navy littoral combat ships could soon be armed with powerful rounds that can blast hard-to-hit drones out of the sky.

Northrop Grumman, which produces modules for the LCS based on its mission, is eyeing a powerful precision airburst munition to combat drones targeting ships at sea. The round would be compatible with the 30mm gun module that's already installed on some ships.

"We're looking at another round called the proximity round, which detects the drone as it approaches and then blows up," Kevin Knowles, who works on Northrop Grumman's LCS and unmanned surface vessel programs, said Tuesday at the Surface Navy Association conference. "It's not a radar system, but it's something similar. That's what we're looking at for drones."

Drones can be tough to hit with solid rounds, Knowles added, so an airburst option could prove useful against the threat.

Related: New Pentagon Team Will Develop Ways to Fight Enemy Drones

The gun module on the LCS features two feeders, so crews could have multiple rounds at the ready to hit different targets.

The threat of drones targeting Navy ships is a serious one. In July, Iran sent multiple drones toward the amphibious assault ship Boxer during its nine-hour trek through the Strait of Hormuz.

At least one of the drones got within 1,000 yards of the amphib. Marines on the ship used the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, a high-tech sensor and anti-drone system known as LMADIS, to jam at least one of the helicopter-like unmanned aircraft.

The Defense Department recently formed a 60-person team, led by a two-star Army general, to come up with new policies and field new systems to deal with the threat of drones worldwide.

Knowles said Northrop Grumman's mission modules allow an LCS to combat specific threat types at sea. Aside from the gun module, the company also makes modules for anti-submarine warfare and counter-mine missions.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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