Another Weapon Option, Brimstone/Sea Spear

Thinkdefense recently reported on the test of a new application of the proven Brimstone missile. (They also have some additional video, and excellent commentary.) Three missiles were launched almost simultaneously against five boats (four stopped and one underway at about 20 knots) simulating a swarm attack. The three missiles each hit a separate target.

Targeting:

The thing that makes this missile so interesting is the range of options it provides the user to ensure that the right target is hit and there is little or no chance of collateral damage. It is equipped with an all weather millimetric radar that will show the shape of the target, and in the latest version semi-laser homing. It can be “fire and forget,” but it can also allow a “man-in-the-loop.” It can be given a laser designation and then continue to independently track the target. It has a terrain avoidance feature allowing it to hit targets on the far side of islands. A kill box can be designated so that it will ignore targets outside the box and self-destruct if it passes through the box without finding a target. Multiple rounds can be fired in a salvo, against one or more targets.

Will the US consider it?:

Clearly this weapon is being marketed to the US, including apparently for use on the Littoral Combat Ship as a competitor to an enhanced Griffin. US Special Forces have already shown an interest in the missile.

Diagram source: http://brimstonemissile.com/brimstone/

“BRIMSTONE is also being proposed as a surface-to-surface missile for deployment within the SEA SPEAR self-defence system against FIACs (fast inshore attack craft–Chuck) and other small surface threats. With a range of deck-mounted launcher options, from single to six-pack configurations, the system’s very small footprint gives it a high level of deck positioning flexibility making it suitable for small vessels such as FACs as well as much larger vessels such as auxiliary ships.”

When you have to hit a target, have to hit a budget and don’t have time to waste.

Footprint:

It is relatively small, about 107 pounds, less than six feet long, and approximately seven inches in diameter. They claim it is suitable for vessels as small as 15 meters (50 feet).

Alternatives

The nearest similar missile in US service right now is the Hellfire. Brimstone developed out of a program to improve Hellfire, so not surprisingly, Hellfire is very similar in size but has a shorter range. Hellfire has been used on the Combat Boat 90 (a 52 foot boat). It does not have the sophisticated dual mode guidance and collateral damage avoidance features of the Brimstone. Several types have been built. Most are semi-active laser homing, but there is a millimetric radar homing version also, but it does not include the man-in-the-loop feature of the Brimstone. The model that appears most useful in a naval environment is the “N” model. The Thermobaric warhead does sound interesting.

AGM-114N Hellfire II
  • Target: Enclosures, ships, urban targets, air defense units
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance: Semi-active laser homing
  • Warhead: Metal augmented charge (MAC) (Thermobaric)
  • Weight: 48 kg (105 lb)
  • Length: 163 cm (64 in)

What would we use it for?

New weapons like this are beginning to give even very small craft the punch that once came only with something like a 5″ gun, but perhaps more importantly it allows a very precise application of force. That should be very important to the Coast Guard in that their units are most likely to operating in and around the US including densely populated areas.

This may not be a ship killing, or even ship stopping weapon (although it might help), but it might be useful against a different type of difficult target. We might someday need to stop a terrorist or an enemy in wartime employing a fast highly maneuverable craft operating inshore or among a number other vessels where gunfire is likely to cause civilian casualties. This system would be much safer, and more likely to succeed, than using guns, in that circumstance.

Too good to  be true?

With the possibility of being surrounded, pushing one button, and wiping out all your enemies, I was reminded of this sequence from the movie “The Last Starfighter.”

More info here:
Brimstone Advanced Anti-Armour Missile, United Kingdom

Farnborough 2012: MBDA completes Sea Spear live firing

22 thoughts on “Another Weapon Option, Brimstone/Sea Spear

  1. Why not, can you imagine bolting the Brimstone missile system to the FRC, NSC and even the Future OPC. I can see the Brimstone missile system being used by the US Coast Guard to stop a ship, terrorist or in wartime. We might not put it on, but having that capability, that the FRC, NSC and OPC can carry the Brimstone missile, can show that the US Coast Guard has a wartime role in the littoral regions. I think it would be a perfect system for the US Coast Guard’s wartime role.

    • I can see putting this on the FRC, but for the NSC I would rather have them put in VLS during refit while they develop a version of the standard missile that is a dual purpose anti ship/anti air version with a warhead that is either kinetic or proximity depending on the target. I think that would be the best way to deal with fast attack craft. and you would still have the two quad harpoons for the heavy targets.

      • I can see the VLS version of the Brimstone for the NSC. It would have to be a plug and play system. I agree, it would have to have a dual purpose for Anti ship/ Anti Air. It would give the FRC, OPC and NSC a weapon to take down a ship, self defense against Aircraft and swarm boats.

      • Nicky, the Brimstone is not an anti-aircraft missile, although it might work against helicopters of low and slow drones.

        We have to wait and see what the Navy selects for the LCS and how they mount it. It may be Brimstone or something else, and while VLS is logical we don’t have any assurance that is the way they will go.

      • Chuck,
        I think a VLS version of the Brimstone could work for the OPC and NSC. The Israelis have a version called the Spike NLOS that can work as well.

      • If you want to deal with fast inshore attack craft (FIAC), Standard missile is not the way to go since it is a big, very expensive missile. Also right now, Harpoon is not compatible with VLS. VLS would offer the possibility of using Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, since four of them can fit in each VLS tube, but SeaRAM could replace the Phalanx with no major changes to the ship and you would have eleven missiles to use against the threat. Explored this topic in some depth here: https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/05/04/alternate-weapons-for-new-large-cutters/

  2. Whether we end up using this missile system or not, Im not really sure. However, that was a very impressive demonstration of a seemingly very effective missile system. I could imagine those suckers flying from a NSC though….

  3. Who will maintain it? The Coast Guard may have to reverse and bring back the FTs. The number of “ordnance” ETs is quickly fading.

  4. I think your last paragraph nailed it, Chuck. It is, for now, too good to be true. This is not mature enough to be very praiseworthy. Shooting from a fixed platform (not a moving ship, or worse yet, a rockin-and-rolling FRC which would presumably be maneuvering heavily); all but 1 target anchored (stationary); and the test run under perfect conditions with plenty of technicians (and no 18-yr-olds) around… For an update / down-size of older technology, I’m actually underwhelmed.

    In it’s current form, it might work in CONUS coastal waters, where we don’t have swarm attacks, but to acquire this for a high-threat environment such as the Persian Gulf, it would have to show me a performance on the level of hitting 5 / 6 moving FIACs.

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  7. NavyRecognition has a video including interviews from the Navy League’s 2014 Sea-Air-Space Exposition that touches on a number of systems we have talked about here. I am going to post this same comment on each of the threads I think are related. The video can be found here:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-9mCsNe-zc&w=560&h=315%5D

    At minute 9:00 there is a discussion of the Brimstone missile.
    At minute 13:00 we see a model of Eastern’s proposal for the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying comments.
    At 13:15 we get an about one minute of update on the Navy’s new 85 foot MKVI patrol boat
    About minute 15:03 they talk about a new hyper-velocity round being developed to be fired from the 5″ (and other) gun.
    About 18:35 they talk about HII’s proposal for a frigate developed from the National Security Cutter. Doesn’t look like any new info.

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