The anti-ship missile for today and tomorrow

Saab has a long history of developing world-leading products and innovations. In the early 1980s a new standard for anti-ship missiles operating in littoral environments was set. Here is the story of Missile System RBS15.

What is important in a naval battlefield?

“The object of naval warfare must always be directly or indirectly either to secure the command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it.” Sir Julian S. Corbett (1854-1922)


Naval warfare is about taking control of the sea or at least an area of the sea in order to use it for ones purposes or to deny the enemy to use it for his purposes. This is normally achieved by destruction of the enemy naval resources in the form of war ships or transport ships. In order to manage this task offensive capability is fundamental. The offensive capability can be used to attack but also to defend from attacks from the enemy. Today the anti-ship missile is the dominating offensive naval weapon without disregarding the submarine launched torpedo.


What competence and skills are needed?

Essential for success in the naval battlefield is modern and well equipped ships manned by well-trained crews. The ships must have sensors to detect threats in all dimensions, in the air, on the surface and under the surface. The information gained from the sensors is collected in combat management systems to compile the tactical pictures used as a base for decisions by commanders on various levels. Reliable communication to facilitate effective command and control is essential and as the tool to affect the enemy, modern weapons such as the anti-ship missile is a must.


What is an anti-ship missile?

An anti-ship missile (ASM) is a weapon that is launched from a ship or an aircraft or a launching platform ashore, typically a truck. The target has traditionally been a ship but modern anti-ship missiles can also attack targets on land. Normally the missile is launched from a container and propelled out with booster rockets that fall off after a few seconds and the missile is then propelled to the target by a small jet engine. The missile is flying to the target position with the help of an onboard navigation system. In the target area the target seeker starts and re-locates the target, lock-on and guide the missile to impact. On impact the warhead with high explosives detonates and destroys the target.

When anti-ship missiles entered the scene in late 1960’s it created a revolution in how naval warfare was conducted. The era of large warships carrying high caliber naval guns with long range in order to master the high seas was over.  Thanks to the introduction of anti-ship missiles, smaller and more agile ships could now present a threat to larger ones and by extension, deny larger navies sea control.

In the late 70’s Saab accepted the challenge to develop a new armament for the Swedish Armed forces and began development of the revolutionary anti-ship missile, RBS15 for the Royal Swedish Navy.

This new missile had several new features and allowed the navy to act from concealed positions behind islands at ships free at sea or in the archipelago. It also provided effective target engagement in an environment cluttered with islands and skerries as well as extensive electronic jamming, giving the Swedish Navy new tactical possibilities.

It was a successful introduction of the RBS15 which lead to further international orders.


The RBS15 of today

Today’s version is named RBS15 Mk3 and is one of the most capable anti-ship missiles in the world.

The RBS15 Mk3 saw a complete redesign of the target seeker, the missile computer, the navigation system and a completely new warhead. The new navigation system uses a combination of inertial navigation (INS) and GPS, enabling the missile to not only operate against naval targets but against targets on land as well, unlocking a whole new dimension of possible applications. This was a very unique capability when introduced, setting the standards for modern anti-ship missiles.


The Mk3 saw a doubling of the range previously afforded by the previous version, allowing more complex trajectories that make use of terrain to enhance overall engagement effectiveness. The missile’s sea skimming ability was also improved to further increase the defense penetration capabilities of the weapon. Furthermore the anti-jamming was updated to counter all kinds of electronic warfare. The new warhead increased the effect in all kinds of targets even in really large ships.


Because the development is continuous, RBS15 is fully adaptable and ready for new technology, which means customers can rely on the RBS15 for the future.


Learn more about RBS15