The new weapon, formally known as the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition, was demonstrated last month in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the second experiment in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering-funded Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.
This lethal weapon answers a long-standing issue for the US Navy. How can you take down a vast number of commercial ships in a short period? When China’s large fleet of fishing vessels, supported by lightly armed navy militia and coast guard vessels, began intruding on Philippine territorial waters, this question came to the forefront of military planning.
With the success of the Javelin and other small missile systems weapons in the Ukraine war, the problem has risen significantly in scale.
“The United States has less than 80 commercial ships in international service, but China has more than 5,500 merchant ships sailing now,” a senior US Navy officer told gCaptain. “What if China equips every commercial ship with Javelin missiles?” What would happen if China issued a portable missle to the 122,034 Chinese seafarers serving on all types of ships? Or the potentially hundreds of thousands that could be displacing Filipino seafarers.”
Although some believe it would be difficult for China to weaponize, its commercial fleet, recent US Marine Corps testing demonstrates it is doable. Last year, as part of an extensive exercise on and near the Japanese island of Okinawa, teams of Marines riding in small inflatable boats armed with Javelin anti-tank guided missiles trained to combat enemy naval troops for the first time.
We are today moving into LIVEX phase of Maritime warfare exercise #Silja. Best to do it with a couple of roars from Euro Spike ER! #merivoimat #navyfi #readiness https://t.co/e86TuBnvFw pic.twitter.com/4MYiN4Gfe3
— Merivoimat – Finska Marinen – The Finnish Navy (@Navyfi) June 3, 2019
The test was successful against some targets, but how much damage Javelin would cause to a huge commercial ship is unknown. The US Marine Corps isn’t the only one who wants to know the answer.
Finland has taken testing a step further by supplying dedicated coastal defence units with Eurospike’s Spike-ER missiles, which are numerous variants of an Israeli-designed portable missile.
According to Forbes’ naval expert and senior contributor Craig Hooper, “To confront China’s massive shipping fleet, the US Navy and allies in the Pacific had few options beyond a heavyweight torpedo or bulky and expensive laser-guided bomb to stop even a single determined and potentially hostile civilian surface ship.”
“This weapon changes things for China’s far-flung and badly-behaved fleets,” says Hooper. “QUICKSINK is a simple kinetic capability where a low-cost Air Force Research Laboratory guidance kit is strapped onto a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). With lots and lots of JDAMs in the world’s arsenal, and given that JDAMs can be dropped by virtually any military aircraft, “QUICKSINK” is a mortal threat to China’s Gray Zone fleet. Now the United States has a low-cost weapon to neutralize large craft anywhere and in any weather quickly.”