Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System C-RAM

Michael Wales points out part of a Michael Yon report posted last week:

One interesting story of note from what will hopefully be among Michael’s final full days in Camp Victory: Last night, he was awakened by what sounded like cannon fire coming from a chain gun. Even with as much time as Michael has spent around war and battle, he had no idea what it was.

Turns out the army was testing a new anti-mortar system. It’s sort of a giant machine gun that can shoot mortar rounds out of the sky. It tracks the incoming mortars with radar and then shoots them down. Given the size of the rounds, Michael was wondering what would happen if they missed their targets. They were big enough that they could rip a city apart if they missed the target and fell to the ground. Turns out, the rounds explode after a certain time in the air and can’t hit the ground. Smart.

It sounds as if this might be the C-RAM (Counter-Rockets, Artillery, Mortar) Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS) system first shipped to Iraq in 2005. (See R2-D2 vs. Mortar Rounds, also posted at Defense Tech). Most details of the program are still classified, but it’s basically a Phalanx CIWS Block 1B on a trailer. According to a 2005 article in Air Defense Artillery Magazine:

The Army made slight reconfigurations to the Navy system to integrate it into the Army’s ground defense mission and command and control structure. The 20mm, six-barrel Phalanx gun system and its search and track radars are trailer-mounted to allow movement to key military sites. Figure 1 shows the basic layout. The Phalanx is familiar to some air defenders because it is similar to the Vulcan air defense gun system, which was the mainstay of divisional air defense battalions in the 1970s through the early 1990s.

The Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2) system is one of the technologies used to integrate the C-RAM intercept system with other presently fielded Army and joint service systems. The FAAD C2 software and hardware solution allows the C-RAM system to communicate freely with existing air defense sensors and other Army battle command systems. The C-RAM unit uses the Air and Missile Defense Work Station (AMDWS) to pass information to other Army battle command systems. Put together, these tools will allow soldiers working in engagement operations cells to easily integrate a C-RAM battery into the defense of a forward operating base.

See CIWS now does surface targets, too (posted one year ago today) for more on the new Block 1B Phalanx CIWS, both naval and land-based varieties.

An ADA Magazine article from last year has more info and organizational background on the system. The Canadians are looking at fielding a similar system.

My guess would be that Yon saw/heard this baby in action. In fact, the distinctive sound of the Phalanx firing can be used as a sort of “get down now” alarm.

While the actual performance of the C-RAM hasn’t been made public, it’s certainly an example of our continuing efforts to evolve our capabilities to meet the challenges we face. The next step for this would probably be to find a way to make it more mobile in order to move with maneuvering units in the field.

Yes, directed energy will be the way to go when we can. But until we can, R2-D2 will help hold down the fort.

Comments

  1. Not to split hairs, but the Phalanx is a directed energy weapon too. Yes, it’s in the less sexy, old fashioned kinetic form, but that sucker is a big time transferor of energy for sure.

  2. But it’s operated by humans, so isn’t it also a biological weapon? Suddenly the CIWS is looking like the most dastardly weapon ever. But, hey, I’m a jerk sometimes. That’s even worse than an engineer…