The United States Navy’s fleet of Aegis cruisers and destroyers are getting a massive boost in lethality. For years, many believed that America’s mighty surface combatants were on track to be outgunned by their Russian and Chinese counterparts—however, a newly unveiled modification to the Raytheon Standard SM-6 changes of all of that.
“I'm announcing today new capability for the SM-6. We're modifying the SM-6, so that in addition to missile defense, it can also target enemy ships at sea at very long ranges,” U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter said at Naval Base San Diego in California on February 3.
The big deal is the range of the missile. And fact that this corrects the lack of other weapons specifically designed to hit surface ships as we began to rely on our carrier aircraft for that job in the post-Cold War era.
But hitting ships with missiles designed for anti-aircraft work is old technology, as this article recounting an accidental strike on a Turkish warship in 1992 demonstrates.
Of course, this comes at the expense of doing their primary job of intercepting incoming ballistic missiles. So there's a price to pay. Still, flexibility is good.