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.

Another Weapon Option, Brimstone/Sea Spear

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:

“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.”

When you have to hit a target, have to hit a budget and don’t have time to waste.


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

Farnborough 2012: MBDA completes Sea Spear live firing

EURONAVAL 2010 Exhibition

A couple of blogs allow us to see new equipment and concepts (mostly in model form) being shown at the EURONAVAL 2010 Exhibition. One of my regular reads,, has a four part series of photos. Clicking on the image gives you a better view and the blogger, Mike Columbaro (he’s French, but the blog is in English), was good enough to label the photos.

There are four pages of additional pictures and discussion here as well ( Unfortunately the pictures are not as well labeled.

If you are interested, I would suggest you start by going directly to the Combat Fleet blog first and then moving on to the militaryphotos site. Because over time the combatfleetoftheworld posts will get buried by newer posts, I’ll provide links for each of them separately, here, here, here, and here.

Mission Modules, a Possible CG System?

For those who might be interested, here is a “pdf” with a bit of information on how the Navy is implementing their mission module concept on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Unfortunately the information only covers the 30 mm gun and 60 round missile system. They are also developing mission modules for ASW and Mine Warfare.

I like the concept for the Coast Guard, in that it provides a way for Cutters to be designed to be armed for wartime missions without the service bearing the cost of maintenance, training, and personnel in peacetime. It might be applicable to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and possibly other cutters, such as future icebreakers and arctic patrol cutters.

There have been some difficulties with the surface to surface missile (SSM) system being developed for the LCS, the non-line-of-sight launch system (NLOS-LS), which began as an Army project, but which has now been taken over by the Navy. There is a relative recent summary of the status of the project here. It does seem the Navy is going to develop something to fill this perceived need, as well as the existing hole in the decks of the LCSs. There is some additional pictures and information here. If the Navy does get NLOS-LS working, it may also be useful on much smaller vessels. Looks like a 15 round launcher might fit on the FRC.