More Weapon Options

Video: Hellfire launch from a 52 foot Combat Boat 90.

Previously we have talked about several guided weapons with potential for use by the Coast Guard for stopping small fast craft that might be used for a terrorist attack, while minimizing the chances of collateral damage. These included guided 70mm rockets (there are actually several different similar adaptations of the 70mm Hydra including, BAE’s APKWS, Lockheed’s DAGR, and Raytheon TALON), in addition to larger SeaGriffin, Hellfire, and Brimstone missiles, but we have not talked much about launchers, with minor exceptions.

Our friend at ThinkDefence recently did a post about the Brimstone missile, “Dual Mode Brimstone Greatest Hits,” and speculated on additional ways it might be used. He showed a number of launchers and I realized, perhaps it was time to show some of the alternatives with the purpose of showing that these systems are not that large, and would have relatively little impact on the ships.

In fact some of these launchers are quite small.


Photo: KongsbergSeaProtector gun mount with 70mm rocket launchers

Lockheed has a land based pedestal launcher that handles both Hellfire and 70mm rockets. For our purposes it would probably have to be “marineized” but the size looks reasonable.

Raytheon has demonstrated their version of the guided Hydra 70mm rocket using a standard rocket pod of the type commonly used on helicopters mounted on a remotely controlled weapon station.
Photo: Raytheon TALON 70mm guided rocket fired from LAU-68 launcher

Most of these launchers look to be like those used on aircraft. It is not clear that the weapons could be mounted and left for months or years until needed. The weapons might have to be stored elsewhere and mounted only when use is anticipated. On the other hand, the launcher used for the SeaGriffin as recently mounted on Navy Cyclone Class PCs looks to be suitable for long term storage.


We have heard that the Navy tested vertical launching the Hellfire on a 65 foot boat, simulating an LCS, and that they expect to mount vertically launched Hellfires on the LCS. Hopefully this will be a good option for cutters as well, with the capability of holding the missiles at the ready for long periods.

43 thoughts on “More Weapon Options

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  2. I know I’m repeating myself but I really wish the CG would start doing some training with guided missiles like these, and at least a pilot installation of a system on an Island Class or Sentinel Class.

    In 10 years unless something changes the USN won’t have a single patrol or combat ship under 2500 tons. History has repeatedly demonstrated the need for significant numbers of coastal patrol boats in order to persistently police an area. In the future the Coast Guard is going to be deployed overseas more than ever with that task.

    Not at all related, but are any of the CG veterans here annoyed that the USCG is still not fully operational with at least a simple UAV like a scan eagle?

  3. This was the first I’d heard of the Griffin’s vertical launch capability — another advantage over Brimstone. 360 degree coverage with less deck clutter. I’ve read Lockheed is adding vertical launch capability to Hellfire but I’m sure how far along they are with the effort.

    • I just don’t see Brimstone as viable. It’s a foreign program/design with no US input and it duplicates (or maybe “overlaps” is a better word) several US systems. It has a unique seeker and that’s about it. Hellfire and Griffin-C are the ones to beat. US programs, mature, and already in service in navalized mounts.

      Personally, I’d ditch the Hellfire idea. The MK-60 system with Griffin-Bs is already in service, been tested, and is low-risk for use on CG WPBs and future WPCs.

      For the NSC and OPC, I’d rather see neither of the above, and instalation of SeaRAM. Yes, it’s a point defense system for incoming missiles, but with current software there is also “HAS” mode which enables targetting Helicopters, Aircraft, and Surface targets. With a 9km range and 25-lb warhead, SeaRAM is superior in range and destructive force to any of the above choices and it has 3 tracking modes vice 1 or 2 on the smaller missiles… For a 100m ship, it gives a LOT of capability. Only drawbacks are cost-per-shot and weight/size of mount (precluding its use on smaller boats).

      • Bill, I can’t disagree with your analysis. There is a diagram around here showing how much of the Brimstone is built in the US, and most of the length of the missile is American made. How much of the cost? No idea. But the Hellfire seems to be catching up with its capabilities and it is already in supply system.

        Griffin C seems to offer every thing that the Brimstone does with the exception of the size of the warhead.

        I am a fan of RAM and SeaRAM but since there is no intention to include a CIWS, it is unlikely to be used on the OPC because of its cost. I would like to see it replace the Phalanx on the Bertholf class.

        It isn’t the cost of rounds that are used, it is the cost of the system and all the rounds that won’t be used that are required for the initial outfit.

        As I read it, at least for now, the Griffin C with a range of about 15,000 yards, outranges the RAM as well as Hellfire and Brimstone. I do believe I remember seeing a Griffin fired from a RAM launcher so a mix of RAM and Griffin in the launcher might be possible.

      • Why wouldn’t the Phalanx be added? All you have to do is transfer the ones over from decommissioning WMEC, and extra WHEC’s. I Can see using Phalanx for interdiction and boarding, and using SeaRam for sea denial. Have they ever thought of upgrading the phalanx with the Gau-12 25mm?

      • Lyle, The CG only the 12 Phalanx on the 378s and eight of them are going to the eight Bertholf class. Of course all the FFGs had Phalanx, so there are systems out there, but it is a maintenance headache so currently no plans to put it on the OPCs. Supposedly they have weight and space reservation for additional systems, and Phalanx is number one on the list of systems I assume they were planning for. For now a Mk38 mod2 25mm will stand in its place.

      • Lyle, there is supposed to be the capability to upgun the Phalanx, as I recall up to 30 mm, but larger the larger the shell the fewer rounds on the mount. I think it more likely that Phalanx would be upgraded to SeaRAM.

  4. I like the Griffin C and think it’s the missile that makes the most sense for a short range naval surface missile for the the USN for CG at this time. It does have a small warhead and isn’t fire and forget, which might keep them from getting the contract.

    The natural choice would be the JAGM under development. I don’t think there are really any technological hurdles, there just isn’t any money or urgent need to replace the hellfire inventory right now, so the Army and Navy are just funding “competitions” with no intention of actually awarding a contract anytime soon.

    It seems like an idiotic waste of money but I guess it promotes improvements from the industry, and when either the need or money materialize a hellfire replacement could be produced in short order.

  5. You might want to check out Defense Industry Daily’s latest news and background information on the AGM-176 Griffin:

    It also has this quote from the Navy regarding the LCS and Hellfire:

    “Longbow Hellfire is the selected missile to help meet the LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package’s (SUW MP) engagement requirement per the LCS Capabilities Description Document (Flight 0+). Currently, no new requirement exists to warrant acquisition of a new engagement capability…. An LCS variant can only receive one SUW mission package. This will have one Surface-to-surface Missile Module (SSMM), which will utilize one launcher structure that holds 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles…. There currently is no requirement for at-sea reloads. Therefore, the current SSMM design does not support at-sea reloads… It utilizes an existing Army M299 launcher mounted within a gas containment system.”

    Provision to accept this 24 round launcher on the OPCs and NSCs certainly sounds do able.

    • The Defense Industry Daily (DID) post says as much. Griffin has some advantages right now and the small warhead is probably enough for the targets the Navy has envisioned. If you follow the DID’s history of the Griffin, you see how quickly things are changing among these weapons. Ranges increase, guidance improves. We need a small scale equivalent of the Mk41 VLS that can launch everything or whatever comes next.

      • That’s a good point on a universal small VLS system, I hadn’t really thought about that.

        The radar systems (especially the smaller naval ones) have the same crazy short development cycle as these small missiles. When a system is selected, it’s no longer state of the art by the time it is fielded.

        The modularity concept of the LCS is a good one if they are able to make the ships work as easily upgraded pickups that can field the newest things. The execution is a different story that has been rehashed to death, so I won’t go into that. And the thing is sooner or later you have to commit to one system or another and avoid continually changing your mind about what system to go with.

      • The trouble is, with all the requirements changes and responsiveness of industry coming up with so many varieties of systems, what size do you standardize? There is already 2 lengths of Mk.41 cells.

        I think a better idea is what the Dutch (I think?) developed, where they made the hole in the deck a standard size, and, depending on which system you install, you might get 8, 16, 24, or some other number, according to the weapon’s size. But the space in the deck is fixed.

      • Thanks Chuck. To clarify my thoughts on this, since some posts below are talking about the CLU:

        We’ve probably missed the window of opportunity, because it should have been part of the LCS program, but my thought on a US version of MEKO or STANFLEX is that it would be optimized for missile systems (as opposed to all of the varieties of systems in the StanFlex and MEKO) that are smaller than the Tomahawk-oriented VLS system. LCS, large patrol boats, the CG’s OPC, are all rather small for optimal use of the Mk.41 VLS system. Platforms which can use the Mk.41, but are smaller than destroyers and cruisers (and so don’t have space for 90 VLS tubes), such as FFGs, NSC, and SSC could have a mix of Mk.41 VLS and the new “Small Modular Weapons Bay” (SMWB).

        Things like RAM, Hellfire, Griffin, ESSM, and countermeasures could be fitted in large numbers in a small area without wasting space that a Mk.41 VLS would (especially depth below decks). Due to the low penetration below decks, it could be fitted in heretofor unique locations around the ship, or would even fit in the sponsons of CVNs, replacing the slewing mounts (and their maintenance) with a small VLS system. Just as with the Mk.38s and other systems, this could save money by only purchasing the systems needed for the estimated number of ships on deployment (with a reserve for maintenance, losses, or surges).

  6. Now that I think about it the failure of the Navy to include a universal mini VLS in the design requirements for the LCS is a great example of the poor execution of the program. I know the NLOS was supposed to be the original system, but once that went away, they should have started development of a new universal small VLS system. That’s exactly the kind of thing that would have made the ship “modular” and versatile.

    • That is probably the best system yet. Probably wouldn’t use the 25km range, but note how multiple sources talk about it being used as a sensor. That range would allow a little loiter time, if using the seeker for data gathering is important.

      Also, with only 2 per mount, acquisition costs are lower to get all vessels fully equipped. And for CG use, 2 would be enough for most engagements. Mount still retains the cannon as well.

      • This certainly looks like the easiest to do, but I would have some questions. How long and under what sea conditions could we leave the weapons on the launch rails? If we are going to store them elsewhere, then where and how are we going to move them around? (Maybe four stout sailors are sufficient, just don’t drop it.)

  7. The NLOS Netfires CLU (containerized launch unit) was supposed to be that mini-vls. It was a good idea; a portable, self-contained, mini-vls that could be deployed as necessary. The NLOS missile ultimately did not work very well but I’ve never read of issues with the CLU itself. Problems seems to have been seeker and cost per-round related. I believe the CLU was developed by Lockheed. If so, I would not be surprised to see it make a comeback with Lockheed’s new Hellfire-based offering.

  8. I still think a tactical VLS is a better answer than Stanflex or something like that. The MK41 was kind of built around the Tomahawk, or at least it was mandated that the VLS would be able to accommodate the TLAM. You could do the same thing with a small system. Granted it does set some built in limitations, like what we see with the 21″ tubes or the MK41 VLS, but the industry will adapt to those parameters and build ;missiles for it. Then you’re not ripping out consoles or loading in a shipping container every time a new missile comes out.

    The LCS program was big enough to force an industry standard, just like the MK 41 was. The companies would want access to the “tactical” VLS market, and built missiles compatible with it.

  9. James WF, you raise good points. The CLU approach has some advantages for smaller ships though. It does not have to be permanently installed, keeping the cost of the base ship lower. It also allows for a potential reload at sea by bringing in another shipping container. MK41 has no provision for reloading while underway. I’m not saying the CLU approach is a replacement for MK41, just that it brings some interesting capabilities to the table and might be a better fit for CG ships than a permanently installed MK41. We will see what the future brings. The capabilities of these small missiles seem to be advancing very rapidly.

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