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.
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.”
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).
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