I have suggested numerous times that the Hellfire missile and its replacement the JASM (Joint Air to Surface Missile) could give even small cutters an effective weapon to counter small, fast, highly maneuverable surface threats and might even be effective to a degree against larger vessel threats.
But before it can be mounted on cutters, the missile and an appropriate launcher have to be in the Navy Department inventory, since all Coast Guard heavy weapons come from the Navy Department.
The Navy and Marine Corps have or will have these missiles in their inventory. They are used from helicopters. The Navy is also already using surface launched Longbow Hellfire missiles as part of the Anti-Surface mission module being used on Littoral Combat Ship. There was a recent test of the missile launched by an Independence class LCS against land targets.
These missiles are produced in large numbers. In 2019 it was reported,
“Lockheed is increasing production of Hellfire missiles, weapons widely associated with drone strikes, from 7,000 per year to about 11,000 per year, CEO Marillyn Hewson said in May.”
From the Coast Guard perspective, the missing element is a launcher suitable for patrol boats and particularly for the numerous Webber class.
Greater range and an AAW/counter UAS capability could prompt mounting the weapon on a wider variety of Navy and Marine platforms including unmanned surface vessels and the Light Amphibious Warship.
Increased range would certainly be welcomed. There are several similar non-US systems that offer greater range than the current approximate 8 km range of surface launched Hellfire and JASM. 16 km is very close to the maximum range of the 57mm Mk110 and the 76mm Mk75 guns and well beyond their effective range.
JAGM is too heavy to replace Stinger as a man portable system, but as a potential replacement for vehicle mounted Stinger missiles, JASM potentially provides much greater range than the Stinger and is a more versatile weapon.
The Marines are fielding MADIS (Marine Air Defense Integrated System) which currently includes a remote weapon station armed with a 30mm cannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun and Stinger short range anti-air missiles. If JASM should replace the Stinger it would give these small vehicles, not only more range against air targets but also an additional anti-surface/anti-armor capability. The combination of greater range and an additional anti-surface capability might be an incentive.
We may see JASM in the service of the Navy or Marine Corps on Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV). We have already seen a launcher on a USV.
In 2020 Lockheed circulated a proposal for a four round vertical launch system that included an illustration of a 16 missile launch system in a 4×4 configuration mounted on a Navy MkVI patrol boat.
The JAGM Quad Launcher (JQL) leverages technology from Lockheed Martin’s existing Vertical Launch System (VLS) designs, which include the popular Mk 41 VLS found on numerous warships in the U.S. Navy and other navies around the world. It also uses the same Launcher Electronics Assembly (LEA) from the M299 launcher, a four-rail design for helicopters most commonly associated with the AH-64 Apache. All of this combined with an open-architecture Launcher Management Assembly (LMA) designed to help speed up the integration of updated hardware and software as time goes on to improve the JQL’s capabilities and add new functionality.
The system illustrated as applicable to a “Multi-Mission Surface Combatant” appears to be a replacement for the 24 round launch system currently being deployed on LCS but could house 32 missile.
Perhaps the way we may see these systems more widely mounted would be by mounting the missiles alongside the gun on the new 30mm Mk38 Mod4 mount.
JASM could provide Coast Guard vessels as small as patrol boats, with a much more accurate, more powerful, and longer ranged response to the need to be able to forcibly stop vessels both small and large, while also providing counter UAS, a degree of anti-aircraft protection, and should it ever be required, a naval fire support ashore capability.