Hold on to your hats because the USS John Finn just etched its name in the record books. In a feat that may well be unmatched, this guided missile destroyer achieved what could be the farthest anti-ship missile strike in history. And here’s the kicker—it had a little help from an army of trusty drones.
Picture this: On April 25, during the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21, the John Finn, stationed off the coast of southern California, let loose an SM-6 missile. Guided by a squadron of both crewed and uncrewed systems, it found its mark over an astounding 250 miles away, striking a simulated enemy warship square in the chest.
Now, let’s talk SM-6. This is no run-of-the-mill missile. This bad boy, part of the U.S. Navy’s Standard series, zooms at Mach 3.5 and boasts a range that stretches beyond 250 miles. It’s got a nifty trick up its sleeve too—it can engage targets beyond what our destroyer’s radar can spot, thanks to some clever use of Earth’s curvature. And that’s not all. It can tap into targeting data from high-flying aircraft like the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, which spots low-flying adversaries that might have slipped under the radar.
Now, why is this a game-changer? Imagine a squadron of destroyers, backed by uncrewed surface ships and aerial support, hunting down an enemy fleet. Instead of blaring radars and risking early detection, our ships can operate incognito, letting the drones do the legwork.
Once the enemy is located, the destroyers can move into SM-6 range and unleash a barrage of missiles. In the ensuing chaos, they can slip away, leaving the enemy guessing.
This milestone, my friends, could very well be the future of naval warfare. Using cost-effective drones to cloak (or discover) high-value ships is a strategic masterstroke. And anything that stretches the boundaries of our existing arsenal is a win in my book. Mark my words, other navies will be taking a leaf out of the U.S. Navy’s playbook in no time.