Another Weapon Option, Longbow Hellfire

File:Lockheed Martin Longbow Hellfire.jpg

Photo credit: Wikipedia, Stahlkocher, Lockheed Martin Longbow Hellfire.

The US Navy is looking at weapons to arm the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for operations against swarming small craft. These weapons will be relatively small and low cost, so they are potentially applicable to Coast Guard vessels as small WPBs. The first system selected was the Griffin, but while it may be improved, it currently has only a very short range.

Earlier, we talked about one of the contenders, the Brimstone, also called the Sea Spear. Another contender has surfaced, including both a missile and a firecontrol system that is already in the US inventory, the LONGBOW system employing the fire-and-forget LONGBOW HELLFIRE AGM-114L missiles. This missile is similar in size to the Brimstone, and like the Brimstone has a millimeter wave guidance, fire and forget capability.

Unlike the Brimstone, there is no claim of a man-in-the-loop capability, which would appear to be a desirable feature, particularly for the Coast Guard, where the target may be surrounded by innocent vessels that we would want to avoid targeting. On the other hand the vertical launch capability does appear to offer some packaging advantages. Lockheed claims “…Nearly 400 radars and more than 14,000 missiles have been contracted for the U.S. Army and international customers” so it is already an established product line with advantages in economy of scale. These systems are currently mounted on Attack Helicopters, so we can be assured that the weight and space requirements are not too demanding for installation on even relatively small craft.

NavyRecognition reports that the Army, Navy, and Lockheed Martin has demonstrated that these missiles can be vertically launched from a 65 foot Navy boat simulating a section of an LCS. The Navy may also want to fit this, or whatever system is ultimately chosen, to their new patrol boat.

Specifications for the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire from Wikipedia:

  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance: Fire and forget Millimeter wave radar seeker coupled with Inertial guidance, homing capability in adverse weather and the presence of battlefield obscurants
  • Warhead: 9 kg (20 lb) tandem shaped charge high explosive anti-tank (HEAT)
  • Length: 176 cm (69.2 in)
  • Weight: 49 kg (108 lb)

Here is Lockeed Martin’s description:

The LONGBOW system is built by a Joint Venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. U.S. Army testing shows integrated capabilities enhance the Apache lethality fourfold and survivability sevenfold. The mission equipment package is in production for the U.S. and several international customers. The Apache LONGBOW system is a proven force multiplier that has been battle-proven in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The LONGBOW Weapon System has been in full-rate production since 1996, with First Unit Equipped in 1998. Nearly 400 radars and more than 14,000 missiles have been contracted for the U.S. Army and international customers. For the Apache Block III upgrade, a new Radar Electronics Unit (REU) will replace two line-replaceable units. The REU will provide growth capabilities to the LONGBOW FCR and will reduce maintenance cost.

The LONGBOW FCR has a very low probability of intercept. It rapidly and automatically searches, detects, locates, classifies, and prioritizes multiple moving and stationary targets on land, water and in the air in all weather and battlefield conditions from standoff ranges. Target coordinates are automatically available to other sensors and weapons for target confirmation, rapid engagement, and reduced fratricide. Target data is digitally available through the data modem for real-time transfer to other platforms and command posts. The self-contained Radar Frequency Interferometer provides rapid and accurate identification and azimuth to enemy air defense units. High system reliability and two-level maintenance maximize operational availability and reduce support costs.

The LONGBOW system employs fire-and-forget LONGBOW HELLFIRE AGM-114L missiles that can be launched from defilade, increasing battlefield survivability. The LONGBOW HELLFIRE missile locks on targets before or after launch and has been used in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The M299 Smart Launcher has a fully digital interface to the Apache helicopter and fires all types of HELLFIRE missile.

26 thoughts on “Another Weapon Option, Longbow Hellfire

  1. I think mounting the Hellfire missile system and Longbow would give the FRC, OPC and NSC the firepower for it’s Wartime role or it’s Counter Piracy Role. I would think, having the Hellfire missile mounted on the VLS system, you can add Surface attack capability and precision strike as well.

    • First of all none of our cutters have VLS and never will, secondly the Hellfire isn’t a VLS launched weapon. This is the real world not the imaginary world of “Call of Duty” video games.

      • We still have a Wartime ROLE that is still mandated by Congress. So at least they should be fitted for, but not PUT ON. That way if we do go to WAR, we have cutters that can be FITTED for weapons such as Hellfire. So why don’t you go back to that ARM CHAIR of yours.

      • First the test did involve using multiple Hellfire missiles in a vertical launch mode.

        True, no cutter currently has VLS, but we are not talking about Mk 41 VLS like on a Burke Class destroyer. They would never have fit on a 65 foot boat. The missile is less than 6 feet long and only a little more than 100 pounds. so adding them is entirely plausible.

  2. Nick was talking about adding the MK41 VLS fited with the Hellfire to all of our cutters and the Hellfire is not designed to be launched from MK41 VLS. That’s what I responded to.

    Nick, you’re the one pretending that you have a clue about these weapon systems from your armchair. The rest of us here are either still on active duty or retired from the military. You are obsessed with war and Coast Guard cutters being armed with weapons that aren’t needed or that aren’t designed to be fitted onto cutters within weight and space limits. The current and recent wars have not required these weapon systems. The war that you fantasize about that would require Coast Guard cutters to be fitted with ASM or AAM would not last very long. The only Navy that could challenge us enough to require that is the Russians and it would most likely go nuclear rendering ship to ship combat useless pretty quickly.

  3. @Guest Coastie It seems your talking our of your ass, which I should knock your ass up side the head for and not seeing the Future uses of this weapon for the USCG. The fact is, if the USN can fit the HellFire Missile into a VLS that is similar to what other navies fit the Barak 1 Missile in the VLS. Then I can see a potential uses for this in future for the US Coast Guard. It’s why I think all NSC, OPC and FRC should be FITTED for Naval weapons such as Torpedos, Harpoons and HellFire missiles, BUT not INSTALLED at this time. The only time We well ever see those weapons, is when the US Coast Guard is put under the US Navy in a time of War or directed by the President. The other is if were deploying with a carrier Battle group or Amphbious Ready group in a High threat environment. The way things are going right now in the Pacific with China, who know’s we could end up going to war with China in the next 30 to 50 years down the road. As of Right now, I see the potential uses of the Hellfire Missile for the USCG in any Future conflict, but at the Moment, not now. Though it wouldn’t hurt to see if we can use the Hellfire missile to stop a ship, such as a bulk cargo ship who is hell bent on committing a terrorist attack.

  4. I highly doubt we are talking about MK41 VLS here. My hunch is something more “NLOS” like. I believe LM was the contractor for the NLOS launcher. I know at the time of NLOS’s demise LM offered to retrofit other missiles to the NLOS vertical launcher. Another clue is the LCSs were designed to neatly fit NLOS launch containers. This is not a dumb move on Lockheed”s part.

    Having a self-contained container of missiles that can be used for anti-surface or fire support is a good idea. I think Longbow is probably too short legged though. Range is only in the area of 8k. Not exactly the over-horizon capability the Navy was originally looking for. Longbow also lacks a “man in the loop” mode, which would be useful in a crowded near-shore environment. In that regard it comes up short against Brimstone.

    • not to mention with a laser guided hellfire you could do disabling fire outside the range of any possible rpg. With the laser guided hellfire you could aim for certain sections of the ship. MMW hellfire I think would only be good when it came to swarm attacks and to be able to ripple fire say 8 missles at separate targets.
      Sweden uses their Hellfire for shore defense also, so just think of this as expanding the distance of shore defense.

      • In terms of thinking about engaging a terrorist controlled vessel attempting to enter a US port (and here I envision the possibility of actually fighting inside a stateside harbor like Chesapeake Bay, San Diego Harbor, Puget Sound, New York Harbor, San Francisco Bay, or LA/Long Beach) there are three criteria I think important:

        (1) The system needs to be virtually 100% effective in stopping a ship when we need to do that.
        (2) It needs to be accurate enough that there will be little chance of stray weapons hitting innocent citizens that might be in the line of fire.
        (3) We need to be able to effectively engage from outside the effective range of weapons a terrorist group might have mounted, these might include, heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, man portable anti-tank weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. I judge this to be about 4,000 yards.

        Generally unguided, high velocity, flat trajectory weapons like naval guns, fail based on both the first and second criteria.

        Weapons like Brimstone and Hellfire probably meet all three criteria for relatively small targets, but are unlikely to meet the first criteria for medium to large ships.

        Modern torpedoes can meet all three criteria against ships, but might not be successful against smaller, shallow draft, high speed craft.

        So we probably need at least two systems to address the full range of potential targets. Unfortunately we have neither of the two types of systems most likely to succeed. We have only guns.

      • Chuck,
        That’s where I see a potential uses for Hellfire/Brimstone missiles. Engaging a terrorist controlled vessel in their attempts to blow up a US port. A main deck Naval gun would be a Last resort, but a Hellfire/Brimstone could slow them down, if it’s aimed at the right spot. It’s where I can see the USCG using the Hellfire/Brimstone to stop a terrorist controlled vessel.

  5. Besides Hellfire missiles being used to stop a terrorist controlled vessel, their is the Brimstone missile and AGM-176 Griffin that has been successfully used in Afghanistan. I can see a potential uses for the USCG in stopping a terrorist controlled vessel from blowing up a US port. You can install them in Canisters similar to the Harpoon. This can be used in Anti Piracy ops overseas and possibly state side, only if their was a Man in the loop mode. I can see the Future OPC and upgraded NCS armed with this.

    Here’s Brimstones Marketing ad

    • I read the same article, Chuck. Interestingly, in Navy Times or USNI (I get both on my Facebook news feed), they just had an article last week about the Mk. 70 Griffin system standing up (IOC) on the PCs. Other than warhead size, I don’t see a tremendous difference between Griffin and Hellfire. And I’m not confident the Hellfire’s warhead is “bigger enough” to make it that much more useful than a Griffin. It also seems to me a guided 5″ projectile could do the same thing, possibly cheaper.

      • The problem I have is that to put it in comparison. Its like a Battleship armed with its heavy Secondary armament to deal with torpedo boats and destroyers, but no big guns to deal with targets its own size. Its two big to be used as a fly swatter, and not armed enough to deal with targets its own size. When it comes to how we are arming the LCS.

        Speaking of Flyswatters. What do you think of the future guided rocket system based on the Hydra 70 as a small boat stopper. It would be a lot cheaper then using the RAM system as a boat stopper.

    • Lyle, I presume you are referring to the LCS in your first paragraph. When I started answering your comment and Bill’s it got involved so I think I am going to have to write a new post looking at the Coast Guard’s needs and options.

      • Did a quick look-up on Hellfire and Griffin. I presume, since Brimstone is a development of Hellfire, the dimensions and many other characteristics are similar. It seems to me, Brimstone concentrated on developing a better motor to make up the loss in range for a surface launch (vs. the air-launched), and a more mission-oriented (ship vs. ship) targeting system, but otherwise kept Hellfire components.

        weight             108 lbs
        length              64”
        diameter           7”
        warhead           18 lbs
        range               8 km (I believe this is the air-launched version’s range)
        speed               950 mph
        cost                  $68,000

        weight             45 lbs
        length              42”
        diameter           5.5”
        warhead           13 lbs
        range               20km (5.5 km launched from surface ship)
        speed               ??
        cost                  ??

      • This is how I see them.

        Griffin is the smallest and least capable but also has the smallest footprint. Its only guidance option is semi-active laser homing.

        The Hellfire has three advantages, it has a little longer range, it has a larger warhead, but not by a lot, and most importantly for the LCS anti-swarm mission it has an imaging fire and forget mode that allows it to engage more contacts more quickly. For the Coast Guard the first two may be more important but the last hardly matters.

        The Brimstone Sea Spear has the advantage of a man in the loop guidance option that might be important for the Coast Guard in using the missile in a cluttered environment.

      • If you had a choice between Hellfire, Griffin or The Brimstone Sea Spear, which would you see the US Coast Guard use to stop a ship

      • I like the Brimstone/SeaSpear best for patrol boats and larger, because of the man in the loop feature. More range and larger warhead is better too, but it will probably never enter the US Navy weapons inventory, so it will not be accessible to the USCG. There are lots of Hellfires out there so they might not be that hard to procure. They would be preferable to the Griffin as a ship stopper, but still Griffin might fit in places where Hellfire would not. If Griffin were a lot cheaper than Hellfire, it might be an acceptable substitute if the Coast Guard could get enough of them. Still, none of them give me a lot of confidence that they could stop a medium to large ship.

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