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.

Guided Weapons–Getting Closer?

Lockheed Martin animation of Hellfire employment from an LCS

It looks like the Navy is beginning to field some weapons that are appropriate for the Coast Guard’s mission of preventing maritime terrorist attacks while addressing concerns that using weapons in US ports may cause collateral damage.

We talked about this concern recently.

I have always felt this mission had to devolve onto the smaller vessels, because the larger cutters don’t spend much underway time around US ports and when they are in port they usually cannot be gotten underway quickly. For this reason the WPCs need to be able to perform the mission.

Navy Recognition has news of progress on two of these systems, Dual Mode Hellfire and Dual Mode Brimstone.

The Longbow Hellfire is already present in the US inventory in large numbers and is being adopted for the LCS anti-surface module. The Brimstone is very similar in size, warhead, and range (about 8,000 yards), but has the advantage of a datalink that allows a “man-in-the-loop” which I think is desirable. Unfortunately, so far the USN is only looking at Brimstone as an air-launched weapon.

Test of Brimstone against two 40 foot maneuvering targets, discriminating between the targets and similar sized craft

Test of the Griffin. (Note limited damage)

A third system, SeaGriffin has a smaller footprint and warhead and has had a shorter range (only 43″ long, weighing 33 pounds, with a 13 pound warhead, surface to surface range of 5,500 meters), but it appears that the latest version may have a longer range, than either Hellfire or Brimstone, perhaps up to 18,000 yards (assuming they have, as reported, triple the previous range). The latest version of SeaGriffin does have a man-in-the-loop capability. Griffin is already being deployed on US Navy Cyclone class PCs. There are lots of photos showing the relatively small size of this system here.

I have never expected that extreme range was an important consideration for Coast Guard weapons, but for the anti-terrorism mission (or enforcing a blockade in wartime), we probably need the ability to engage from outside 4,000 yards (beyond the effective range of the 25mm Mk 38), because inside that range, there are a number of systems that might be added to a ship that could have a good probability of quickly disabling our vessels.

I still believe none of these weapons is capable of quickly and reliably stopping a medium sized ship or anything larger. For that I think we still need at least a light weight torpedo, but these weapons would significantly improve the chances against vessels of any size and particularly against small high speed maneuvering targets. Equipped with these, a Webber class cutter could be better able to fulfill this mission than a National Security Cutter with its 57mm guns.

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.