Home » Aviation » Navy Axes Griffin Missile In Favor of Longbow Hellfire for LCS

Navy Axes Griffin Missile In Favor of Longbow Hellfire for LCS

Longbow AGM-114L Hellfire

Longbow AGM-114L Hellfire

The Navy has traded Raytheon’s Griffin IIB missile for Lockheed Martin’s Longbow Hellfire AGM-114L for the surface-to-surface missile for early increments and testing for the surface warfare (SuW) mission package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the outgoing program manager for LCS Mission Modules (PMS 420), Rear Adm. John Ailes told reporters on Wednesday.

The choice between the missiles — roughly equivalent in size, range (about five miles) and warhead size — came in part from the ability of the Army’s Longbow to take targeting information from Saab’s Sea Giraffe radar and use its onboard millimeter wave seeker to find a target. The Griffin uses a semi-active laser seeker that requires the ship’s crew to ‘paint’ a target with a laser, limiting the number of missiles that can engage targets at once.

“We have these 10,000 [Longbow] missiles, there’s no cost risk at all, it’s vertically launchable and you can shoot lots of them at same time and you don’t have to do that thing where you keep the laser on it,” Ailes said.
“That’s why we’re excited about Longbow Hellfire.”

The Navy plans to test the missile aboard a LCS — likely USS Freedom (LCS-1) — next year. In 2013, the Navy tested the Longbow at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. against simulated small boat targets successfully.

“We had three boats and in one of the scenarios we had two boats in close company and it went for three for three, and we said ‘we’re with you’,” Ailes said.

The selection of Longbow for early SuW mission will not preclude a competition for a follow on surface missile for LCS, Ailes said.

The service originally planned to hold a competition for the SuW missile in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, but the Navy might be able to hold the competition sooner.

“I believe we’re going to have a competition for the follow-on to Longbow,” Ailes said.
“But we have these ones in inventory and we’ll just use those [until then].

The surface-to-surface missile has been the most troublesome component of the SuW mission package.

The Navy had selected Griffin in 2011 to be the follow on missile after the failure of the defunct Non-Line of Sight Launch missile system (N-LOS) that Navy officials initially planned to put onto the LCS.

The SuW package is designed to fight the so called fast attack craft/ fast inshore attack (FAC/FIAC) or small boat swarms that could threaten larger ships.

Though the selection of Longbow will improve the number of targets LCS can engage, it would be of little use against a large naval vessel.

  • It makes sense. Use something that is current, ready to bolt on technology. Now if they can drop the Module crap and simply arm the LCS as a Corvette and MCM ship.

    • Jon

      Current, ready to bolt on technology;

      76mm Oto Vulcano guided rounds, 40 kilometer range, 80 rounds per minute, 483 rounds in the magazine; $3,000 per round…
      Hellfire/Longbow missile; 8 kilometer range, $125,000+ per round, limited by number of launchers aboard…

      LCS is built to civilian standards, lightly crewed…why insist on arming it with LoS weapons, that puts it on equal footing with each and every small boat in a swarm?

      • Maybe we can turn it to a corvette for the Special forces.

        • Clarkward

          It’s way too big for that…

      • James B.

        If they gave the LCS non-LoS weapons, how would the crew know what they were shooting at?

        Seriously, the targeting is usually far harder than the shooting.

        • Jon

          Absolutely correct. So if it’s “the best swarm killer in the fleet”, why didn’t they give it more than a bargain bin sensor system (and weapons)? Or at least make sure the control runs, plumbing, and power requirements were baked in, for possible upgrades later?
          For that matter, it’s supposed to duke it out with swarms of Boghammers, with nothing more than a pair of optically sighted 30mms, no armor, and crap sensors…how? Each of said Boghammers with a heavy MG that’ll drill through an LCS lengthways, and a variety of rockets, both guided and unguided…

          • James B.

            Something else to consider: when fighting a swarm, the easiest way to win is to disrupt the swarm’s coordination and defeat the threats in detail. For low-end threats like speedboats, coordination can be disrupted by radio jamming and laying smokescreens, and then the battle would be slanted heavily in favor of a higher-end platform with radar targeting and/or thermal sights to see through the smoke.

            It’s the reason our special forces like to fight at night; darkness degrades everyone’s performance, but our guys are much better equipped to work through it.

          • Jon

            Swarms are a threat because they’re a fast, relatively heavily armed, relatively uncoordinated mob, each of which individually has the capability to heavily damage/disable a soft target such as the LCS. The LCS AFAIK, carries neither a broad spectrum jamming/ECM suite or smoke generators…
            “Heavily slanted” sounds nice, until you realize you’re talking about a disposable herd of $1.98 speedboats crewed by even less expensive barbarians vs. a roughly $750+ million capital investment, populated by even more costly USN bodies. And it takes, just one.

          • James B.

            You’re right, the LCS is poorly equipped to combat swarms. My point is that the LCS can never afford to beat swarms “fighting fair,” but must be equipped and intended to move the battle to one more advantageous to blue-water combatants.

          • Jon

            Which leads right back inevitably to the point being made 10 months ago…and once it’s equipped to do the job, it’s no longer an LCS. I guess now it’s going to be called a “frigate”.
            An overly expensive, low capability, low survivable frigate that personifies all the reasoning against building frigates in the first place, compounded by inefficient hulls, powerplants, sensors, small crews, short range, with a half-assed weapons suite bolted on…

  • Tony

    Makes more sense than Griffin, but I am having trouble imaging a tactical scenario where LCS wins a fight because the threat is within Hellfire range. IOW, a waste of time, effort, and money.

  • dumpster4

    “Though the selection of Longbow will improve the number of targets LCS can engage,
    it would be of little use against a large naval vessel.”

    I wonder if it would be more effective against larger vessels if it were equipped with the
    thermobaric warhead?:


  • estuartj

    As long as your targets are swarm boats, pirates or the like, great. I think that’s the path the Surface Warfare package is going anyway, at least until a follow on missile is developed that can get you a decent punch at a long enough range to take on even a non-peer Navy’s small surface combatants.

  • Rick

    This seems like an effort to “put something aboard” that resembles a Surface Warfare capability, in order to enable a “declaration” that the LCS is a success. Given all the delays, changes, alterations and other “gyrations” it seems the Navy realizes it has a naval version of the Edsel in the LCS and is trying to figure out how to put a square peg in a round hole.

    It seems that SECDEF Chuck Hagel agrees to some extent given his recent decision to cut 20 ships off the LCS buy, capping the program at 32 ships. In a Feb. 24, 2014 press briefing, Hagel said, “The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific.”
    Apparently, senior Pentagon leadership is beginning to recognize the limitations of the LCS and the program. A warship is meant to provide a credible presence to deter an aggressor and to go in “harm’s way” should deterrence fail. To accomplish either mission successfully, she needs to have the organic means to fight in all three warfare spectrums – air, surface, and subsurface – with appropriate levels competence given the foreseeable threats.

    Maybe, it’s time to scrap this program and turn the dollars to resurrecting, upgrading, and updating the highly successful FFG-7 design for the 21st century.

  • Rick

    Thought I would add this link from GCaptain regarding the LCS to the conversation. It makes some interesting points regarding the LCS.


  • Truthiness

    I’m glad DoD found a use for the Longbow missiles since the Army never used them on their Apaches after billions in development and upgrades. Almost every AH-64D I saw in Iraq had the radar removed for weight savings and carried rockets and laser-guided hellfires instead.

  • Mikejonesdc

    Who in the Navy will be fired for wasting time and money on Griffin? Oh, they won’t be fired? That lack of accountability is one of the reasons why we are in trouble.

  • dumpster4

    If the Navy wants to boost the LCS’s over-the-horizon anti-ship capability quickly, why not just procure more Penguin missiles for the Ship’s Seahawk helos?


    This wouldn’t require any modification to the ship, so it would be relatively cheap.

    Also, Boeing was working on a missile called JABMM that would improve the LCS’s fighting capability:


    There’s also been talk of fitting the LCS with Norway’s NSM:


    Whatever happened to these efforts?

  • It is about time that the Navy realised that shooting laser guided missiles at small boats was a losing proposition. Since this is designed to address the swarm attack problem within the Navy, and it has a limited range, an LCS armed like this will only be able to protect itself and maybe one other ship. The smart play would be to put this as a capability on every ship as part of SSDS, not just the LCS. This would be the surface equivalent of what RAM does for air threats.

  • Paladin

    The Navy wasted their time/money with Griffin and is adding a system, Hellfire, that they don’t need. RAM launchers enabled for surface targets are more that capable of engaging the dreaded boat swarms.

  • Anthony Evans

    “you dont have to do that thing when you keep a laser on them” wow professional reply their lol

    • Ferit Tuzer

      yeah I like that the navy rear admiral’s view of targeting is the same as mine from playing battlefield.