As surface warriors will tell you, the threat that keeps them awake nights is the Supersonic Sea-Skimming AntiShip Cruise Missile (ASCM).
The Navy's Ship Self Defense research and development (R&D) program is an integrated suite of sensors and defensive weapons designed to detect, track. and kill the supersonic sea-skimmer before it reaches the ship. No one system can do it alone, but the combination of soft-kill electronic warfare systems, improved radar and electro-optic sensors, point-defense and improved area-defense missiles, and the Phalanx Gatling gun-the Ship Self-Defense system (SSDS)-can move Navy combatants out of the sitting duck role.
The time from horizon to impact is so short, however-even with SSDS-that there is no margin for error. A well-trained crew is essential for ships to survive the low-altitude, supersonic ASCM threat.
Training means targets-and that is where the problem emerges. The Navy's supersonic sea-skimming target is the MQM-8G Vandal, a state-of-the-art conversion of old Talos missiles which are rapidly disappearing. The Vandal has a dual role: