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SCO fires SM-6 from LUSV prototype

An SM-6 missile being launched from Ranger , one of two LUSVs forming part of the Ghost Fleet Overlord programme (US Navy)

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has revealed a live firing test of the Raytheon Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) from a large unmanned surface vessel (LUSV) testbed.

A short video released by the DoD on a social media account on 4 September showed the SM-6 launch from Ranger , one of two LUSVs forming part of the Ghost Fleet Overlord programme. Ghost Fleet Overlord is an Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO)-led initiative being undertaken in partnership with the US Navy's (USN's) Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants to inform future USV development and technical risk reduction.

The SM-6 test is believed to have been conducted in late 2020. The video showed Ranger – a 59 m former platform supply vessel converted to serve as an LUSV demonstrator – fitted with a containerised four-cell launcher on its aft deck. The launch cells are then extended into the vertical before a single SM-6 missile is fired using targeting data provided by a third party.

The DoD post spoke only of “game-changing, cross-domain, cross-service concepts the Strategic Capabilities Office and US Navy are rapidly developing” and released no further details of the launch event, or the test objectives. However, it appears likely that the SM-6 test was executed on the Point Mugu Sea Test Range off California given that Ranger is based at nearby Port Hueneme.

The SM-6 is an extended-range active missile designed for network-enabled operation using third-party targeting. The missile can be used in anti-air, sea-based terminal defence and anti-surface roles.

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