The Phalanx CIWS : How Effective and powerful is it Against the Incoming Threats?

Phalanx CIWS

What is The Phalanx CIWS 

Phalanx CIWS Close-In Weapon System is a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun that can destroy incoming anti-ship missiles and other land and sea-based threats.

It counters anti-ship missiles and urgent threats that have breached other defenses. On land as part of the U.S. Army’s counter-rocket artillery and mortar systems. It detects and destroys incoming rounds. It also helps provide early warnings of attacks. 

The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) uses a high rate of fire and ammo to blanket an area and neutralize opposing fire before it can reach a vessel. 

The Phalanx CIWS, which has a maximum rate of fire of 4,500 rounds per minute, has long served to defend ship platforms.

An independent package The Phalanx weapon system automatically performs activities often done by numerous systems, including search detection, threat appraisal, engagement tracking, and kill assessment.

CIWS History 

In the past, CIWS was made to be the last line of automated weapons defense (called “terminal defense” or “point defense”) against all incoming threats, including Sea-skimmers with high acceleration and maneuverability.

In 1973, the U.S. Navy received the prototype system to assess the destroyer leader USS King; The conclusion was that more work needed to be done to improve performance and reliability.

Following that, on board the destroyer USS Bigelow in 1977, the Phalanx Operational Suitability Model successfully passed its Operational Test and Evaluation.

The model outperformed the requirements for operational maintenance, dependability, and availability. Following a successful second review, the weapon system was licensed for production in 1978.

In 1980, the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea became the first ship to be fully equipped. And in 1984, the Navy began installing CIWS systems aboard non-combatant ships.

Multiple strategies to improve the Phalanx system have been conceived because threats evolve and technology advances.

The Block 1 upgrade in 1988 offered various improvements in radar, ammunition, computing Power, and rate of fire.

These improvements were primarily intended to increase the system’s capacity to defend itself Against the emerging Russian supersonic anti-ship missiles.

How does it Work? 

The search subsystem feeds the CIWS computer with information on possible targets’ bearing, range, velocity, direction, and altitude.

This data is evaluated to decide whether the CIWS system should engage the detected object. However, the CIWS system does not recognize the identification of friend or foe (IFF) because

It only has the data collected in real-time from the radars to decide if the locked Target is a threat and to engage it.

To be considered a target, the CIWS has its criteria. First, it oversees whether the target is approaching the ship; second, whether the contact can maneuver to hit the ship; and third, whether the contact is traveling between the minimum and maximum velocity. For the last part, the operator can regulate the range of minimum and maximum limits of the system. 

The CIWS system shields ships from enemy fire. Compared to modern ASMs, which have an effective range of between one and five nautical miles (two and nine kilometers), its design constraints limit its effective range to a far shorter distance.

The gun mount moves very quickly and very accurately. The ship doesn’t have to do much for the system to work, so it can work even if the ship is somewhat damaged.

Two things—440-volt, three-phase A.C. electricity at 60 hertz and water for cooling electronics—are all that’s needed to get things going.

It also has inputs for the ship’s accurate compass heading and 115-volt A.C. for the pass subsystem, so it can do everything it needs to, including some non-essential tasks.

The CIWS uses its dual antenna configuration to simultaneously attack its targets. The radome houses the primary search antenna. Positioned atop the white section of the weapon control group.

The search system supplies the CIWS computer with data on the possible targets’ bearing, range, velocity, direction, and altitude.

This information is analyzed to decide if the CIWS system should attack the object it has found. Once the computer determines that a target is good, the mount moves to the face.

Following that, the tracking antenna receives the target. Despite being precise, the tracking antenna has limited vision.

The tracking subsystem tracks the target until the computer calculates the maximum hit probability. The system fires automatically or suggests firing depending on operating conditions. The mechanism guides fired shots to the target.

How effective is the CIWS against missiles?

According to the feature built into the CIWS system, and because CIWS is created as a last line of defense, the answer is it is not substantially effective.

To stop the highly modernized missiles that are coming at them. First of all, the CIWS will not stop the missile from destroying the ship.

The missile’s attack will not stop just because it has been torn into pieces and bits, as these tiny bits will continue and crash into the ship.

Secondly, a significant problem will arise in the event of multiple missile attacks. While the Phalanx CIWS can levitate and cut across almost its entire field of fire in around one second, this does not imply that it could instantly track and hit whatever it sees.

The last one, the rapid acceleration of technological development, which has given birth to hypersonic missiles or weapons five times more than the speed of sound, will seriously outpower the CIWS.

As you may already know, hypersonic weapons travel across miles at incredible speeds. Hence, it would be challenging to defend against.

Besides, other than hypersonic weapons, there are still many ASMs capable of bypassing the power of CIWS by numbers, speed, or agility.

That concludes why the naval fleet cannot entirely rely on its survivability to the Phalanx.

Phalanx CIWS Version So far: 

 Block 1a: Modified software and processing power allow the CIWS to perform better against many targets and could hit high-altitude targets with its enhanced antenna and 50% more ammunition.

Block 1b: phalanx surface mode (PSUM): The 1b variants configuration augments the failing systems’ proven anti-air warfare capability by adding a forward-looking infrared sensor.

So far, the Phalanx has had many versions; one of them is The block 1b version of the system adds control stations that allow operators to track and identify targets before engagement. 

Block 0: The initial Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) was developed in block 0 to intercept and destroy low-flying anti-ship cruise missiles. it allows the system to be used against helicopters and high-speed surface craft at sea, while the land-based version helps identify and confirm incoming dangers. 

Where is The Phalanx CIWS installed and needed? 

The phalanx weapon system is actively installed on all U.S. Navy surface combatant ship classes and those of 24 Allied nations. The land-based version is forward deployed and has been used in combat.

The Phalanx is needed for U.S. naval ships to enter disputed seas or seas with a U.S. adversary conducting anti-access aerial denial (AAD) operations. AAD is a growing problem in the South China Sea and Baltic territories.

The ability to shoot down incoming threats can give us sailors confidence to maintain the balance of power on the sea. Without systems like the Phalanx, U.S. naval vessels would be vulnerable to cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, or aerial attacks. 

cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers, and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels, use this system to protect themselves from incoming threats. 

The upgrades are designed to increase capacity substantially and Ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment.

C-RAM Phalanx is looking for a way to stop the constant barrage of rocket and mortar fire. The U.S. Army needed a fast, two-field anti-missile device to stop Rocket artillery motors.

The Centurion, the product of this effort, is a ground-based adaptation of the Navy’s CIWS. Each system now has a different phalanx 1b CIWS.

The 20-millimeter m61a1 Gatling gun is attached to a generator and mounted on a trailer for mobility. The unit can fire 4,500 20-millimeter rounds per minute.

Centurion, like the naval counterpart, employs Ku band radar to identify and track projectiles and engage surface targets at minus 25 degrees.

This ensuring is reportedly capable of defending 0.5 square miles 1.3 kilometers squared area. One significant difference between the land and sea-based variants is the choice of ammunition.

The C-Ram fires 20-millimeter GI TSD high-explosive incendiary tracer self-destruct ammunition, originally developed for the m163 Vulcan air defense system. It explodes on impact or tracer burnout, reducing collateral damage from failed naval systems’ armor-piercing tungsten rounds.